Winter is the growing season for citrus fruits. Did you know that Taiwan also has a native endemic citrus species? Today (29th), the Forestry Bureau held a "Return of the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange" event at the hiking trail entrance of the Daping Forest Road of Jiali Mountain in Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli County. Planting of the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange took place at the event, where it was also pledged that this citrus species will be brought back to its place of origin (this citrus, named after Nanzhuang, is an endemic plant of Taiwan and is now on the verge of extinction in the wild). It is the hope that this act can help restore the forest ecosystem in the foothills of Taiwan and promote the development of green economy in the mountain village communities.
In order to restore one of Taiwan's rare endemic plant species, the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange, Director General Lin Hwa-Ching of the Forestry Bureau, together with Professor Tseng Yen-Hsueh of National Chung Hsing University, and Saisiyat elders and children, brought the critically endangered Nansho Daidai Sour Orange back to its native land for planting. In the presence of friends from all sectors, Director General Lin presented 30 Nansho Daidai Sour Orange saplings to representatives of the Saisiyat tribe in Nanzhuang, enabling the traditional ethnic plant to return to the tribe. This event has set a new milestone for the conservation of rare species, as well as the restoration and industrial application of Taiwan's native plants.
The Nansho Daidai Sour Orange (Citrus taiwanica Tanaka & Shimada) is a citrus species in the Rutaceae family endemic to Taiwan. It was first documented that the plant was discovered in 1926 by Japanese botanists in Miaoli's Nanzhuang Hongmaoguan, present-day Penglai Village in Nanzhuang Township, and was therefore named "Nansho Daidai Sour Orange." However, with the development and utilization of the foothill forests, the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange almost become extinct in its original discovery site, and it has been listed in the IUCN Red List as a Critically Endangered (CR) species due to its rarity. Therefore, the restoration of the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange is of great significance in the conservation of rare species and the restoration of biodiversity in primeval forests.
The Penglai region in Nanzhuang is the traditional living area of the Saisiyat people. According to Gen Chih-You, a Saisiyat elder, the Saisiyat name for Nansho Daidai Sour Orange is gadayou (meaning "food prepared by mother"). The citrus has been an important plant for the Saisiyat since ancient times, since the fruit is both a snack and also has medicinal and ceremonial applications. Elder Gen recalled that when he was a child, whenever he had a cold, the family elders would grind dried Nansho Daidai Sour Orange into a powder for him to take as medicine. It was a must-have plant for general healthcare used by every Saisiyat family in the early years when medical treatment was not readily available.
According to the Forestry Bureau, the fruits and leaves of the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange have a strong fragrance, while the juice has a distinctive sour taste and a slight bitterness. The fruit's unique flavor makes it very suitable for processing and consumption. Furthermore, the wood of the orange tree is extremely fine in texture, and according to literature, it was considered the best wood for making pipes, knife handles, and other delicate wooden tools in the early days. Therefore, the plant holds value for promoted planting and the development of applications. With the support of expert teams under Professor Tseng Yen-Hsueh of the Department of Forestry, National Chung Hsing University; Assistant Professor Lin Shu-Yen of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, National Taiwan University; National Miao-Li Agricultural and Industrial Vocational High School; and National Ilan University, the Hsinchu Forest District Office has inventoried the few remaining Nansho Daidai Sour Orange trees within its jurisdiction, and planted the first batch of nearly 100 Nansho Daidai Sour Orange saplings for plant specimen collection and restoration. The harvested fruits were not wasted after the seeds had been taken out. The fruits were tested for the development of essential oil extraction, dessert-making, and tea and beverage preparation, all with amazing results. At the event, the Hsinchu Forest District Office presented a "pound cake with Nansho Daidai Sour Orange frosting" made using the juice and "Nansho Daidai Sour Orange peel nama chocolate" made using the orange peel syrup. The unique refreshing scent and tangy sweetness of the Nansho Daidai Sour Oranges greatly impressed the guests who tasted the delicious treats. It is hoped that the local tribal communities of Nanzhuang will create specialty products with Nansho Daidai Sour Oranges, as it would not only help with both species preservation and the economy, but also bring a wonderful flavor experience to the people of Taiwan.
Restoration planting is the first step in preserving and conserving rare species, exploring their applicability, and using them sustainably with a commercialization mindset. Not only would this help to fully utilize the diverse values of the forest ecosystem, but also pass on and innovate the traditional wisdom of the indigenous people. Today's event, the "Return of the Nansho Daidai Sour Orange," was held with such aims in mind. Not only is it about the restoration of endangered plants, but also about forest resources becoming the backbone for supporting the livelihoods of mountain tribal communities. Promoting the creation of a favorable model of sustainable management for both local industries and forest resources preservation will continue to be the goal of the Forestry Bureau.