Sat, Jul 26, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Tainan debates ‘Phoenix’ fall

GOVERNMENT TO BLAME?A botanist said that the local government had not done enough to protect old trees, but the agriculture bureau said its work was not noticed

By Tsai Wen-chu and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Local residents and civic groups yesterday accused the Greater Tainan Government of negligence of duty after a landmark tree in a downtown public park was toppled during Typhoon Matmo earlier this week.

The royal poinciana tree (Delonix regia) in Tang De-jhang Memorial Park in downtown Tainan was knocked over by strong winds, with most of the tree’s upper trunk and crown toppled, leaving only the lower trunk standing.

The landmark tree, which was more than 100 years old, is beloved by locals for its prominent crown and its annual blooming of bright red flowers, which gave rise to it being dubbed the Phoenix Tree (鳳凰木).

Tainan Community University botanist Huang Jui-kuang (晃瑞光) said the city government had done little to protect the aging tree, and that within a few years, all the precious old trees in the city could be gone.

Greater Tainan Bureau of Agriculture Director Hsu Han-ching (許漢卿) said the bureau had put in a lot of effort to protect the city’s old trees, and he understands the public’s concern for the Phoenix Tree.

“However, it is not fair to accuse the city government of not protecting trees just because one old tree was toppled,” Hsu said. “Workers from the bureau have actively treated diseases in old trees, but the work has not been publicized much, so people do not realize what work has been done, leading them to believe nothing was done to safeguard the old trees.”

The Tainan Old Tree Promotion Association issued a statement yesterday urging the city government to “save old trees from the roots up.”

“We are saddened to see the demise of the 100-plus-year-old landmark tree in the Tang De-jhang Memorial Park, which fell during the typhoon. We request that the city government make a comprehensive survey on the health conditions of all old trees, as well as the ecology of their surrounding environment. From this, the old trees should be classified and receive protective measures accordingly,” the statement said.

Association spokesperson Yang Shu-fen (楊淑芬) said that the city should be more diligent in following up on its regulations on the protection of trees, by allocating more funding and hiring professionals to safeguard the trees, rather than wasting money on frivolous activities like fireworks events.

Yang said that besides the Phoenix Tree, a number of old trees were toppled during Typhoon Matmo, adding that the city government was negligent in its mandate to protect the public treasures.

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