Saturday, 11 February 2012

The flame has died

Not so many years ago, perhaps 4 or 5 years at most, I received a report (through the VC) from a scientist in USM who conducted a survey of the trees on the main campus in Penang. One major finding was that more than half (if my recollection is accurate) of the trees surveyed were diseased or under attack from pest (ants, termites, bugs, insects, fungus). The prognosis was not good. There is nothing that humans can do to save the trees but to wait for them to die (maybe I am exaggerating abit). The recommendation? Don't plant these trees again. (I was kinda disappointed with the recommendation, to say the least).

Yes, when we introduce alien species into the local environment, often they can't survive. On the other hand, some alien species may be very aggressive and overwhelm the local species. So, it's generally a good idea to plant local species of plants. I remember visiting Monash U a long time ago and read about their effort to dig up the foreign species of grass and plant them with the more resilient and drought-resistant local grass or weeds (they looked like lalang).

One particular species on campus which is probably going to die out is the flame of the forest. The pests slowly eats away its core and ultimately it crumbles, unless the maintenance people chops it down first - usually because someone will complain about the dying tree.

First, let me show you how beautiful they are when in full bloom. Some pictures were taken as far back as 2003 (from The University in a Garden coffeetable book), one in 2006.
 School Education, 2006

 School of Social Sciences, 2003

 The Post Office, 2003

The then Centre for Translation and Languages, 2003

School of Art, 2004

This is what has died recently. Actually, not dead but chopped down, presumed dead.

 This picture is in The University in a Garden, 1st Edition. Picture taken in 2003 from the top of Canselori Building. The building in the picture on the right is where students used to pay fees and not in the picture on the left the then Corporate Office, now BPI. See how big a spread of the crown?

 Picture taken in 2009. See the big scar on the trunk? That's where the pests will attack (the weak link). If the plants are healthy, this won't happen but often human intervention for human safety reasons results in branches being trimmed improperly leading to rai water collecting at the cuts and then nature takes over.

 Taken on 3rd Feb 2012. Only a stump left behind.
 It's not dead, just presumed dead.

This is from The University in a Garden, 2004, School of Art.
I once had a "stand-off" with the people who kept asking the VC for permission to chop down the tree because they say its dead. I "advised" no because I argued that even a dead tree has a place in our garden. One day they got smart and asked someone else (a landscape architect) who confirmed that it's dead and gave the go ahead. So it got chopped.

The way things a going, we will see the last flames dying in perhaps 5 to 10 years.

Oh, BTW, there's a very healthy flame of the forest towering over other trees at the Durian Valley. What does that say?