Like cherry blossoms, Tung blossoms (油桐花) are another amazing flower that is popular among the people of Taiwan. Every year from mid-April to mid-May when Tung blossoms are in full bloom, many hilltops across Taiwan are blanketed with the snow-white flowers of Tung trees.
Please watch the following video of the beautiful Tung blossoms in Taiwan.
The Tung tree (油桐樹) is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of about 20 m (66 ft) and sheds its leaves in the fall. It is a monoecious (雌雄同株) and diclinous (雌雄蕊異花) tree with both male and female flowers borne on the same inflorescence. Tung trees were first brought to Taiwan from mainland China and planted in hilly regions across Taiwan by the Japanese during the colonial period (1895-1945).
Tung tree oil and wood
Tung tree seeds can be used to extract Tung tree oil. As Tung oil is durable, flexible, food-safe, and leaves a water-resistant finish, it was once commonly used in the manufacture of furniture, boats, and other consumer goods before it was replaced by cheaper synthetic alternatives. Tung tree wood is also a basic material in the production of consumer goods ranging from furniture and musical instruments to chopsticks, matchsticks, and paper umbrellas.
Tung tree flowers are borne in clusters, with the white blossoms tinged or striped with pink in the throat. The flower clusters are made up of one or more female flowers surrounded by a number of male flowers, but only male flowers will fall off the tree.
When Tung blossoms grow in abundance, the fallen blossoms on the ground resemble snow in the spring. Taiwanese thus refer to Tung blossoms as “Snow in April,” or “Snow in May.” In fact, Tung blossoms are widely used on various Hakka cultural creative products as well.
Symbol of the Hakka people
As Tung trees were mainly planted in the regions inhabited by the Hakka people in Taiwan, they used to be an important economic crop for Hakka families. Nowadays, due to the fact that the economic importance of Tung trees in Taiwan has diminished, the Hakka people’s livelihood is no longer reliant on Tung trees. Nonetheless, Tung trees have transformed into the symbol of the Hakka ethnic group in Taiwan, as they cherish the economic value the tree brought their forefathers.
Hakka Tung Blossom Festival
To promote Hakka culture, Taiwan’s Council for Hakka Affairs started to sponsor the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (客家桐花祭) in 2002. Since then, a variety of Hakka cultural activities have been organized by local governments during the blooming season every year.
Moreover, with many cozy parks and trails featuring Tung blossoms established in various places with thick Tung tree concentration across the country, Tung blossoms have been easily accessible to the public, and the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival has become a popular event in Taiwan. In addition to viewing beautiful and breathtaking clusters of Tung blossoms, visitors can also explore Hakka culture and appreciate Hakka cuisine during the festival. But it is a pity that many activities have been cancelled this year due to the ourbreak of the CCP virus (COVID-19).
It is romantic to walk on the meandering trails blanketed with snow-white flowers during the festival. In particular, when Tung blossoms are falling off the trees, it is amazing to see mini-propeller-like white Tung blossoms spinning down to the ground or the water of streams from the flower clusters in the sky.