The Pavilion of the Future qualifies for a government rating of "diamond class" amonga green buildiangs. In it you will find 30,000 plants of more than 1700 varieties native to Taiwan. It is a microcosm of the vegetation covering our island. (photo by Chuang Kung-ju)
If you say that the floral creations in the Expo Dome are "manmade beauty," then the displays in the Pavilion of the Future, which are modeled entirely on Taiwan's actual plant ecology and habitats, capture the essence of "natural beauty."
There are 30,000 plants of more than 1700 varieties in the Pavilion of the Future, and of these over 90% are native to Taiwan, plants that you can see somewhere on the island. "The pavilion is a microcosm of Taiwanese flora," says Tu Chi-yi, director of planning for the building.
The story of the Pavilion of the Future starts with a "Tree of Life." This venerable old tree, which comes from Chang-hua, started life as a bodhi tree, but it was taken over by a banyan tree (which, being a kind of "strangler fig," always starts life in another tree and eventually kills and replaces its host), and this in turn was taken over by another banyan, forming a fascinating line of succession. It symbolizes the history of Taiwan, full of indomitable determination and vitality through generation after generation.
Led by the "Tree of Life," the pavilion displays the diversity of vegetation in Taiwan in themed areas, some based on climate, some on altitude, some on rarity, some by plant types.
The Rare Plants Area brings together 120 varieties of rare and precious plants native to Taiwan. Of them, 48 species are unique to Taiwan, while another 70 exist here only in tiny numbers.
Lu Wenbin, the chief supervisor of the Rare Plants Area, began coming up with preliminary concepts for the exhibit two years ago, and he began visiting all over the island, from the coastlines to the mountainous interior, looking for and acquiring specimens. These include the Taiwan cowtail fir, one of Taiwan's four most celebrated and unusual trees, which cannot be bought or sold because it is protected under the Cultural Assets Preservation Act, and had to be borrowed from a botanical garden for the exhibit.
Unfortunately, people just staring at a group of plants would be hard-pressed to get a feeling for their rarity or value. Moreover, with different types of plants flowering at different times, it is impossible to see all of them to their best advantage during the expo period. The best example of this is Lilium speciosum var. gloriosoide (a kind of "showy lily"). This native species is astonishingly beautiful when blossoming, but after the petals wilt and fall, the plant also withers, only coming back to full vigor the following spring. Because the flowering season is from August to October, the public only had a brief chance to see the flowers for a few days during the trial run of the expo; but since the expo runs from November to April, no visitors will have the privilege to see this resplendent flower.
In the Tropical and Subtropical Area, you can see common coastal plants like Bar-ring-tonia ra-ce-mosa, beach nau-paka, tree heliotrope, and Ja-tro-pha cur-cas. Ja-tro-pha in particular is now gaining a lot of attention-because of its biofuel potential, it may become an important cash crop.
In the Succulent Plants Area-where the layout of the plants is inspired by Penghu's famous "twin hearts" stone fish trap-you will see more than 500 varieties, including representatives of the families Cac-ta-ceae, Cras-su-la-ceae, Aga-va-ceae and Eu-phor-bia-ceae, creating an impressive once-in-a-lifetime sight. Of particular note is the "giant green fan" cactus (Opun-tia ficus--indica), which Aboriginal peoples once used as fencing to keep out intruders, and the feather cactus, which appears to have fungus covering its entire surface.
Tu Chi-yi points out that in the Temperate Plants Area, the flowers on display are especially brilliant and fresh because the current temperture suits them well. The most representative of these have to be the bulb flowers, including lilies, night jasmine, dahlias, poppy anemone, common grape hyacinth, tulips, and peonies.
The plants in this area come from places like Mt. Hehuan and Yushan (Jade Mountain), exclusively from altitudes of 3500 meters or above, where average annual temperatures are about 5°C. Varieties on display include the Yu-shan cane, the Yu-shan se-dum, the Yu-shan juniper, and Rhododendron ru-bro-pil-osum var. rubropilosum.
Pavilion of the Future executive director Liu Zhi-hui points out that the Yu-shan cane is seen as the "tree-line marker" for high-mountain plants, because once you get above these you will not see any more large trees.
Within the Special Exhibition Area, the themed flora displays feature some of Taiwan's major export plants, such as the dancing lady orchid, flamingo lily, and Malabar chestnut, while the Orchid Area offers a wide variety of Or-chid-aceae, whose elegance is only enhanced by placing them one next to the other. In addition, in cooperation with the Dr. Cecilia Koo Botanic Conservation Center in Ping-tung, the Pavilion of the Future is exhibiting 500 varieties of both domestic and foreign rare and important plants that the center is working to save.