Rapeseed flowers are the heralds of spring on Jeju Island. If you type the Korean word for rapeseed into web portals, you will see such phrases as “rapeseed blossom period” “Jeju rapeseed” and “Mt. Sanbang rapeseed” automatically appear. In famous photo zones like at Mt. Sanbang, keepers of rapeseed fields charge admission fees of 1,000 to 2,000 won. However, as the COVID-19 situation has worsened, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province authorities have uprooted many rapeseed plants, which had been tended to by elderly women in different neighborhoods, in a desperate endeavor to dissuade tourists from coming to the island.
Spring rapeseed is one of Jeju’s trademarks, but the island boasts other yellow flowers that bloom in summer, fall, and winter. In the summer, tall dandelions with long, outstretched branches that lack downy tufts and leaves bloom in great bunches on roadsides and in parks. These are actually false dandelions, known by the English names of flatweed or cat’s ear, that are called gaemindeulle by Jeju islanders. In the 1980s, the seeds of this perennial herb belonging to the Asteraceae family of plants were introduced into the island mixed with grass seed, and the plant now occupies spacious fields for domestic animals in the Pyoseon and Andeok townships and Sagye village of Seogwipo as well as U Island and the summit of Mt. Halla. The Ministry of Environment has designated flatweed as an alien plant that causes ecological disturbance and conducts a yearly removal of it, but it remains a troublemaker due to its natural survival power combined with Jeju’s warm weather. During the summer, it is easy to see street workers mercilessly cut it down with weeding machines.
In sharp contrast to the flatweed plants that struggle for survival every year, autumnal chrysanthemums are well looked after by Jeju officials. Whether driving or walking along Jeju’s roads, you will be able to see these yellow flowers, called gazania, shimmer under the trees that line the streets. Jeju landscaping is characterized by planting flowers along the roads under these trees and the most popular choice is gazania, a kind of chrysanthemum from South Africa, sometimes joined by pansies and china pinks. Last year, as many as 75,000 gazanias were planted along the eight-kilometer road linking Namwon and East Ilju Road.
In the winter, another kind of chrysanthemum, named leopard plant, blooms. It grows in Ulleung Island, Korea’s southern provinces, coastal areas, and the numerous islands that form the Dadohae Marine National Park. Jeju provincial authorities use leopard plants to bring color to the island’s winter season as they have a wonderful fragrance and their flowers are long-lasting. If you come across knee-high flowers with five or more yellow petals in Jeju between October and December, these are leopard plants. Thanks to these brilliant, bouquet-like flowers, Jeju streets are never bleak even in the winter.
Although not all of Jeju’s flowers are as famous as the rapeseed blooms of spring and the camellia of winter, Jeju has lots of beautiful flowers to offer. May the flowers you unexpectedly encounter along the road brighten up your day and ease your mind.
Written by Do Hyun-ji, Senior Program Officer
KF Global Networking Department