Have you ever seen the butterflies that grow on the edge of fields? The Forestry Bureau, the Endemic Species Research Institute (ESRI), and the Environmental Ethics Foundation of Taiwan (EEFT) held the "Planting Back Bamboo Orchids" event in Gongliao today (2nd), to plant bamboo orchids. Currently, there are less than 200 bamboo orchids in the wild in Taiwan. It is hoped that bamboo orchids can return and proliferate in the wild once again, so that these beautiful "butterfly flowers" that exist in the memories of old Gongliao residents can bloom again at the edge of fields.
Bamboo orchid (Arundina graminifolia) is a species of orchid. As its seeds lack endosperm, the plant needs to rely on symbiotic bacteria to obtain nutrients from the environment. In the early days, bamboo orchids were commonly found in the humid and sunny foothills of north and central Taiwan; their blooming season lasts from June to October. Due to habitat loss and land development, overuse of herbicides, and over-harvesting, the once common bamboo orchid is now listed on the 2017 Red List of Vascular Plants of Taiwan as a Critically Endangered plant.
Since 2011, the Forestry Bureau and the Monghoho Production Team have worked together to conserve the rapidly disappearing wetlands in the foothills of Gongliao. The Forestry Bureau pays ecosystem wages to farmers to maintain the habitat of the farmlands, directly or indirectly benefiting the many creatures that inhabit these fields. In 2014, the conservation team discovered the Red Listed bamboo orchid in the terraced paddy fields of the Gongliao collaborative area and continued to carry out habitat patrol and management. In 2019, the ESRI joined the collaborative team under the framework of the Endangered Plant Restoration Program of the National Ecology Green Network to implement basic research and restoration tasks of the bamboo orchid; in addition, they collected fruit pods from Gongliao for propagation and preservation. After two years of ongoing efforts, the team finally produced a stable number of viable seedlings, giving the bamboo orchid a chance to come home.
At the event, Director Yang Jia-Dong of the ESRI presented seedlings to Mr. Hsiao Chun-Yi, a local farmer of Gongliao who is engaged in field preservation work and who also discovered the bamboo orchids, to symbolize the homecoming of the bamboo orchid. In addition, seedlings were also gifted to Gongliao Elementary School, so that the pupils can plant the precious bamboo orchids on the school grounds, allowing them to learn the importance of ecosystem and habitat preservation and to carry on the legacy of habitat conservation. Furthermore, Director General Lin Hwa-Ching of the Forestry Bureau also presented a certificate of appreciation to the local farmers for preserving the bamboo orchid habitat over the years, and to the Gongliao Elementary School for its long-term commitment to promoting local habitat conservation. The Forestry Bureau said this cross-sector partnership echoes the core spirit of the "National Ecology Green Network." In addition to restoring endangered plants, the work also takes into account biodiversity and eco-friendly production, preserving the function of farmland ecosystem services, and enabling a sustainable environment where humans and nature can coexist in harmony in the foothills and plains.
According to the ESRI, bamboo orchid populations in the wild are now extremely rare. The research team only found orchids in four locations in Taiwan, but these populations are very small and even the larger ones only have a few dozen plants. The survival of the bamboo orchid is closely related to human land use practices and has to rely on the local communities for its preservation. Other conservation measures, such as reducing the use of herbicides, are key to the survival of the bamboo orchid populations. The ESRI has included the bamboo orchid in the "National Botanical Garden Project" to begin restoration efforts.
The Forestry Bureau said that thanks to the cooperation of all sectors in the long-term restoration operations, they are now protecting 811 species in 10 collaborative terraced paddy fields of around 7.7 hectares in Gongliao. These include 22 threatened species on the Red List, such as Utricularia bifida and Nymphoides coreana, as well as protected wildlife species, such as the crab-eating mongoose and common rice paddy snake. The Forestry Bureau would also like to remind the public not to trespass into the fields and cause inconveniences to the farmers. If you would like to learn more about the Gongliao terraced paddy fields, please visit the Facebook page "Monghoho Little Barn" to book tours and mini-trips to gain more in-depth knowledge and participate in conservation actions.