The Barringtonia racemose (Small-leaved Barringtonia) of Yilan County’s Wujie Township is known as the “summer-night fireworks,” but recently it has been ravaged by pests, with many of the trees stripped almost bare, leaving the scenery sparse and in need of emergency treatment. After the county’s Arboriculture and Landscape Management Office inspected the sorry scene, it determined the problem was the work of the Selepa celtis moth, and that it made sense to treat the trees even though much of the damage had already been done, to avoid the spreading of the epidemic.
The plants blossom in May or June every year, with white or pink flowers that open only at night. Under the lights of the lamps along the road the flowers resemble flames, which is where they get their name for being like fireworks in the summer evening.
Recently, visitors to the area have been noticing that the leaves of the Barringtonia trees have been attacked by pests. The problem shows no signs of abating and, having received messages from members of the public, County Councilor Chien Sung-shu visited the management office and asked them to do something before it is too late, to ensure that the trees, which have been there for over two decades, do not disappear for good.
Photo courtesy of Shih Shih-min
According to Chien, the trees have been attacked by pests in the past, and preventative treatment applied then had been successful. Surprisingly, the epidemic has recently reared its ugly head again, and this time it is more serious than before. The annual blossoming of the Barringtonia helps drive local tourism, and the attack by the pests has already had an effect on this year’s flower season. If nothing is done about it quickly, “there might not be any flowers to see come next year,” he says.
According to staff at the management office, the effects of the Selepa celtis moth are difficult to make out in the initial stages and often go undiscovered. However, as they eat away at the buds and young shoots, they will affect the times the flowers blossom. The branches and twigs that the pests attack have already been cut back, and this will be followed by the application of the biological pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis, to retard the spread of the disease.
On the question of whether the Barringtonia will bounce back next year, the office says that the situation at the moment is far from ideal and that, in addition to the use of pesticides, they will also need to spread fertilizer to increase the trees’ disease resistance. Whether or not they will be healthy next year remains to be seen.
(Translated by Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
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