Yanmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan National Park is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan, located between Taipei and New Taipei City. The districts that house parts of the park grounds include Taipei’s Beitou and Shilin Districts; and New Taipei’s Wanli, Jinshan and Sanzhi Districts. During Japanese rule, it was known as Daiton National Park. The National Park is famous for its cherry blossoms, hot springs, sulfur deposits, fumaroles, venomous snakes, and hiking trails, including Taiwan’s tallest dormant volcano, Seven Star Mountain (1,120 m).
Yangmingshan was originally called Grass Mountain during the Qing Dynasty, in reference to Twatun Mountain (大屯山). Officials during this period were worried about thieves stealing sulfur from the rich sulfur deposits in the area so they would regularly set fire to the mountain. Thus, only grass and not trees could be seen. The first national park was established during the Japanese occupation in 1937.
In 1950, President Chiang Kai-shek, in order to commemorate the Ming Dynasty scholar Wang Yangming renamed the Grass Mountain to Yangmingshan. In 1962, the then Taiwan Provincial Bureau of Public Works began to plan the Yangmingshan National Park. The initial planning area was 28,400 hectares, including Guanyin Mountain and the Datun Volcano Group.
Different from the high mountain national parks, Yangmingshan National Park has a lower elevation. Even though mountain elevations range from only 200–1120 meters, beautiful landscapes such as ridges, valleys, lakes, waterfalls and basins are abundant. Andesite rocks make up most of the area’s geology.
Due to the effects of post-volcanic activity and precipitation, soil in the region is highly acidic. With the influence of the northeast monsoon and the area’s microclimates, winter temperatures are much lower than the surrounding areas. The above factors cause the vegetation to differ from those in other regions at the same latitude. Some medium and high altitude plants can be found here such as Bird-lime Tree and Hairy Japanese Maple. Vegetation groups can be divided into subtropical monsoon rain forests, temperate evergreen broadleaf forests and mountain ridge grasslands. There are 1360 species of vascular bundle plants in the region. Some of the common ones are Red Nanmu, Large-leaved Machilus, Formosan Sweet Gum, Taiwan Cherry, Mori cleyera and Dark Spotted Cherry. The most famous is Taiwan Isoetes in Menghuan pond, an aquatic fern only found in Taiwan. Mt. Datun is one of the most well known places to see some of the 168 different species of butterflies in northern Taiwan. The best time to view the butterflies is from May to August. The most common ones are from the Families Papilionidae, Danainae and Nymphalidae. There are also 122 species of birds in the region.
Photo by Yang An Shen