Urban Trees – Paulownia

Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 20:31 | Category : environment
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Now I’ve often been called quite oblivious to what goes on along the streets of Bangkok, unless something really catches the eye, urban insensitivity? The greenest looking street I believe would be Wireless Road unless they lopped the trees over there. Orchard Rd. in Singapore, lined with flowing acacias, but underground cabling. We are limited on sidewalk tree planting space due to those ugly tangles of wiring that webs through this city. Wireless Road is certainly not wireless! It refers to the former name of the radio or wittayu in Thai.

I once heard in a lunch conversation that there is even urban tree theft in this city! Imagine these thieves with their balaclavas and shovels rolling around in their truck digging up a huge tree, how does that go unnoticed! When my godmother was developing a housing project I recall she complained that a decent sized tree was around 10,000 baht each and that was over a decade ago. Now do these tree thieves not realise that this is a country where there is a high possibility that the stolen tree be the home of an angry tree spirit! But they probably avoid stealing certain trees such as the Bodhi and Banyan, especially ones with garlands, sashes and ribbons tied around their trunks.

Again I lose track, the point of all this! I was reading Newsweek March 10 and came across ‘World Challenge 08’ “an annual global competition that honours inventive local solutions to our planet’s most difficult problems from poverty to environmental degradation… in association with Shell and BBC World. Which awards a $20,000 grant to the winner and $10,000 each to two runners-up to help support their projects”. Further details at theworldchallenge.co.uk All of which somehow led me to look up on fastest growing trees.

paulownia10The Empress Tree or Paulownia Tomentosa an ornamental deciduous which has a growth rate of 3-4.5 metres per year and grows up to 15m. It’s timber can also be used for parquetry, light furniture and musical instruments. On further snooping this tree was already introduced during the 80s in a forestation project under the patronage of His Majesty and assistance from the ROC Government, full article here.

Since there are many plots of undeveloped private land, these fast growing trees should be planted in the unused space! Not only will this tree planting be environmentally friendly, your formerly barren wasteland will look more attractive to buyers. If one is unable to sell, the trees can always be chopped down when they are mature and sold for timber! Oops… well at least they did do some environmental improvement whilst they were standing or they can be sold live so that they can ‘greenify’ some other place.

A ridiculous idea on how to prevent people from stealing them, sashes, garlands and the works tied around each tree! However this may be counterproductive as it may also scare off potential customers. The non bargain bin solution would be to hire someone to live on the plot and tend the plantation.

Image from what I think to be from a photoblog of a paulownia grower in Thailand at webshots.com

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