Sat, Apr 20, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Taipei defends tree policy

OUT ON A LIMB:Critics said the city’s decision to plant non-indigenous cherry trees lacked imagination, adding that foreign tree strains are not suited to the local climate

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

The Taipei City Government has planted more than 4,000 cherry trees around the city in the past five years to cater to the public’s tastes without considering the suitability of the trees to the local environment, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors said yesterday, urging the city to develop a comprehensive public arboreal policy and tree planting program.

Amid the popularity of cherry blossom festivals in Japan, Taipei City’s Parks and Street Light Office, Department of Civil Affairs and several other departments have invested more than NT$15 million (US$500,000) in planting 4,158 cherry trees in city parks and other locations since 2008, and the distinctive trees can be spotted in all 12 city districts, according to information from the office.

DPP Taipei City councilors Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) and Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) yesterday questioned the large-scale planting of cherry trees, saying the nation’s warmer climate is an inappropriate environment for the trees, which are best grown in mid-latitude areas.

The increasing number of Japanese showa cherry (昭和櫻) and somei-yoshino cherry (吉野櫻) varieties planted in the city also shows the city government’s lack of originality and its failure to plant trees or flowers that can highlight the city’s distinctive features, they said.

“If the city government insists on planting cherry trees, the local varieties of Taiwan cherry (山櫻花) and double cherry (八重櫻) would be better choices. We do not oppose the planting of cherry trees, but the city should not follow the frenzy for cherry blossoms blindly,” Wu said.

Taiwan cherry trees still outnumber other varieties in the city, with 3,064 planted in the city, compared with 625 somei-yoshino cherry trees and 267 double cherry trees.

However, last year the number of somei-yoshino cherry and Japanese showa cherry trees planted in the city was 232, which was higher than the number of Taiwanese cherry trees.

Huang Shu-ju (黃淑如), chief engineer at the Parks and Street Light Office, said it planted most of the cherry trees in Yangmingshan (陽明山), as well as in Shilin (士林) and Beitou (北投) districts, and did not allow other departments or local boroughs to plant cherry trees as street trees in downtown areas.

“There are more people asking us to plant cherry trees in their neighborhoods, and we won’t agree until proper assessments have been done,” she said.

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