Precious Plants Living in the 4 Most Beautiful Sites in the Border

Discover plants at Yongneup, the Punchbowl, Hantan River, and Dutayeon following a guided tour of the DMZ Botanic Garden

YoungneupDMZ Botanic Garden

The DMZ border area contains a well-preserved natural environment with beautiful ecosystems and landscapes. However, it is not easy to visit this area owing to the local characteristics, as well as conservation and security reasons. With a guide from the DMZ Botanic Garden, visit four representative places where you can see the well-preserved and beautiful natural environment of the border area, and learn about the precious plants that inhabit these places.


Yongneup is a representative high moor in South Korea located at an altitude of 1,280 m near the top of Mount Daeamsan. Its name, meaning "Dragon Swamp" in Korean, was given because of its location near the mountain top, which seemed like a place that an ascending dragon would take a rest on its way to heaven.

This place was discovered in 1966 while studying the ecosystem of the DMZ, where civilian access had been restricted since the Korean War. High moors are very rare worldwide, and their ecological and academic values are very high.

Yongneup is largely divided into Big Yongneup and Small Yongneup. Big Yongneup has a thick peat layer formed by stacks of dead plants that have not completely decomposed, and it is very acidic with almost no nutrients. Therefore, Yongneup is a paradise for wetland plants, and a variety of rare and diverse wetland plants are found here.

James gentian James gentianDMZ Botanic Garden

Along with Trientalis europaea var. arctica (Fisch. Ex Hook.)Ledeb., there is one plant that only blossoms in Yongneup: Gentiana jamesii Hemsl. This highly valuable and rare plant has the characteristic of pursing its petals as if to protect itself when the flower is touched. It would be an interesting characteristic to observe.

Round-leaved sundew Round-leaved sundewDMZ Botanic Garden

Even if you were not familiar with plants when you were young, you may have had the experience of being amazed by the stories of insect-eating plants. Drosera rotundifolia L. is a representative insect-eating plant. Although there are quite a few wetland areas inhabited by D. rotundifolia throughout the country, they are gradually disappearing owing to various external environmental influences. Meanwhile, Yongneup is well-preserved, providing a home for many D. rotundifolia plants.

Korean swamp pink Korean swamp pinkDMZ Botanic Garden

In Yongneup, there is a plant that resembles an ethereal bride: Heloniopsis tubiflora Fuse, N.S.Lee & M.N.Tamura, a plant endemic to South Korea. The Korean name with the term "skirt" in it comes from the fact that the wide leaves are reminiscent of the skirts of young women. H. tubiflora and H. koreana Fuse, N.S.Lee & M.N.Tamura have almost the same appearance; however, they can be distinguished by the differences in the textures and edges of leaf. Although confusing, it is possible to distinguish them upon close inspection.

The Punchbowl

The Haean-myeon area in Yanggu-gun has a basin-shaped terrain, which has long been called the "Punchbowl" by locals. The nickname was coined by a war correspondent who came with the US Military stationed in the area during the Korean War. He looked at the entire topography of the coast and called it a "Punchbowl," inspired by its resemblance to a bowl that holds punch.

There is a must-visit place in the Punchbowl, the Punchbowl Dulle-gil, a 72-km-long trail consisting of four courses: Oyubat-gil, Mandaebeolpan-gil, Pyeonghwauisup-gil, and Meonmetjae-gil.

Here, there are rare plants such as Hanabusaya asiatica Nakai, Aconitum chiisanense Nakai, Micranthes octopetala (Nakai) Y.I.Kim & Y.D.Kim, Streptopus ovalis (Ohwi) F.T.Wang & Y.C.Tang, Corydalis maculata B.U.Oh & Y.S.Kim, and Trillium camschatcense Ker Gawl., as well as endemic plants such as Pseudostellaria setulosa Ohwi and Corydalis grandicalyx B.U.Oh & Y.S.Kim. While walking along the Dulle-gil, a sign that says "Minefield" is easily found, unlike on other trails named the Dulle-gil. Since it is a Dulle-gil built beyond the CCL, there are many unidentified land mines. Therefore, this place can only be visited after making an appointment with a guide.

Odontochilus nakaianus (2021-08-13) by Kyung-Ryul ByunDMZ Botanic Garden

Kuhlhasseltia nakaiana (F.Maek.) Ormerod is one of the rare plants found here. Although its native habitat is distributed across several locations, its habitat in the Punchbowl Dulle-gil is known to be the Northern Limit Line of its distribution in Korea. Try looking for K. nakaiana when you visit the Punchbowl Dulle-gil.

Hantan River

The occurrence and development of the Hantan River flowing from Mount Jangamsan in Pyeonggang-gun, Gangwon-do is due to the volcanic activity that occurred approximately 270,000 years ago. Lava erupted from the volcanic activity of Mount Orisan, located in the Pyonggang region of North Korea; flowed 95 km through Yeoncheon to Paju; and a lava plain was formed over a vast area of land (641 km2 in total). Thereafter, as a result of active wind and water erosion along the weak boundary between granite and gneiss, the Hantan River Gorge was formed through the center of the Cheorwon Plain.

The Hantan River area has a unique landscape of small waterfalls, columnar joints, planticular joints, and ponds, along with wide plains and wetlands. It is an area with excellent biodiversity, with numerous living beings nesting in various places due to the diverse habitats it provides. The area also serves as a shelter for Grus japonensis, Aegypius monachus, and Anser fabalis, which migrate from Russia and northern China to escape the cold in winter. What types of rare plants are growing in the Hantan River area?

Sanicula-leaf golden laceDMZ Botanic Garden

In May, in the middle of spring, along the talus slopes or the trails of the Dulle-gil around the Hantan River, Patrinia saniculifolia Hemsl. can be seen sticking its head through the cracks in the rocks. With its neat yellow petals and natural beauty, P. saniculifolia is a plant with excellent ornamental value. Similar to its flower language, which means "infinite love", you cannot help but fall in love once you see this endemic plant. 

East Asian epimediumDMZ Botanic Garden

If you wander deep into the mountains that rise along the Hantan River, you may find Epimedium koreanum Nakai, although it is very rare. When you encounter E. koreanum, you will not be able to easily turn away from its beauty. As it was widely known as an ingredient of a tonic in the 1990s and was coveted by many people, its abundance has rapidly decreased in its native habitat, and it is now labeled as a vulnerable (VU) species.

Scenery of Dutayeon by Kwang Soo KimDMZ Botanic Garden


A stream flows between Mount Baekseoksan (1,140.1 m) and Mount Daewoosan (1,178.5 m) on the eastern front of the DMZ, where the rugged mountain range continues endlessly. This stream flows south, forming Jigyeon Falls, as well as Dutayeon. Dutayeon, a valley named after Dutasa, a temple with a 1000-year history, boasts beautiful natural scenery and is a river with abundant flow.

Valley of Dutayeon 2 by Bang Hyo GwakDMZ Botanic Garden

If you visit Dutayeon, which has uncontaminated natural beauty and to which civilian access has been restricted for over 50 years, you will be able to relieve the stress and anxieties of your daily life, similar to the spirit of "Duta," which means "to shake off life's worries and greed."

Land mineDMZ Botanic Garden

Yanggu is a place haunted by the memories of countless bullets, as well as the blood and pain of soldiers from the Korean War. Around the Dutayeon Ecological Trail, there are still signs indicating the area’s tragic history, such as barbed-wire mesh, broken houses, and landmine warnings. Now, after 60 years, the area around Dutayeon radiates with greenery, as if it is embracing all the scars of war and has been reborn as a cradle of rare plants. Here are some of the rare plants that you can spot in Dutayeon.

Japanese PogoniaDMZ Botanic Garden

If you wander around the wetlands of Dutayeon, you may find the rare Pogonia japonica Rchb.f, an orchid with one light reddish-purple flower blooming at the tip of its main stem. It is characterized by the fact that it primarily grows in acidic soil. P. japonica, which in bloom looks like a goldfinch soaring toward the sky, is a rare plant designated as a VU; thus, we must protect it.

Pink sileneDMZ Botanic Garden

Along the trail to Dutayeon, when the autumn leaves turn red in October, you can see Silene capitata Kom, blooming purple in between the cracks in the sunny rocks. Similar to its flower language, which means "laughter of a child," the flowers of S. capitata—with five petals divided into two branches—are adorable and have high ornamental value; however, you should not pick them carelessly. It is distributed only on the Korean Peninsula and is classified as an endangered species owing to its very narrow distribution.

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