The Tree Projects: Couple climbs 20-story-tall tree in Taiwan

Intimate camera angles create "tree portraits" of one of Asia's largest trees, the Taiwania 

Couple climbs monstrous trees for environmental justice. (Photo: TTP)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An Australian married couple are taking pictures as they climb some of the world’s tallest trees in an effort to raise environmental awareness, acquire scientific knowledge, and push photographic boundaries, including a 20-story tall tree in Ci-lan Mountain, Taiwan (棲蘭山), reported the Central News Agency.  

The trees they selected in Taiwan, the Taiwania (台灣衫), are coniferous trees. The Taiwania is one of the largest tree species in Asia and on the cusp of becoming an endangered tree species due to illegal logging.


Taiwania (Photo: TEIA) 

The couple, Dr. Steve Pearce and Jennifer Sanger, climbed three different Taiwanias. The group of Taiwanias selected are nicknamed “the three sisters” (三妹妹) and are 70 meters tall (230 feet), 60 meters tall, and 50 meters tall, and over 800 years old. The duo customizes their climbing and camera equipment for each tree. They spent 17 days camping outside of Yilan (宜蘭) to complete the project. 


Taiwania (Photo: Forestry Bureau)

Once on the treetops, where no one has ever been before, they discovered orchids, lichen, moss, ferns, and areas where the Taiwanias overlapped, forming intricate nest-like clusters. Pearce commented that

“Taiwanese people should feel very proud to have these trees [on their island].”

Whereas most photos of large trees show the tree from a remote distance to capture the tree’s entirety, Pearce and Sanger are introducing trees from different angles. They are striving to create “tree portraits” to facilitate a deeper learning and respect.


Taiwania (Photo: TEIA)

The couple hopes that these new perspectives are received as impressive and awe-inspiring to ignite people’s love of nature and ultimately inspire them to do their part in protecting the environment.

“We are simplifying the [scientific] information. We simplify a big tree into a photo and make it approachable,’ said Pearce.

Before coming to Taiwan, Pearce worked with a 95-meter-tall eucalyptus tree in Tasmania and a 45-meter-tall podocarp tree in New Zealand.


Taiwania (Photo: TEIA)

The name of the Taiwania among the Rukai indigenous group (魯凱族) means “trees that bumps against the moon.” The tree can be found within a particular 2000-meter range of mountainous area in Taiwan as well as in Myanmar and southern China. Most Taiwania average 90-meters-tall and 3 meters in diameter.

The Taiwania was first discovered in 1904, during the period of Japanese rule, by a Japanese botanist, eight kilometers north of Alishan (阿里山).