The Green Invasion of Mikania ( 2011/08/11 )
|Lamma Island Day! My friend and I decided to spend the day out of the office for once to do a relaxing green walk at the third biggest island in Hong Kong.
There is a pair of Banyan trees on Lamma Island, which locals named “lover trees”, as the branches of the two trees intertwine with one another. An educational sign in front of them explains that the two are parasitic strangling plants. In decades or even a hundred years’ time, one will outlive the other by blocking out the sunlight. The pair gives insight to what we humans perceived as loving, but can just be the struggle for survival - natural selection at play.
Mile-a-minute weed, Mikania micrantha, can also be seen everywhere on the island. Many people don’t seem to notice it these days, while walking through the green lush in Hong Kong’s parks and reserves. However, it is the rapid spread of this ‘sly’ tree climber that is devastating the ecology of Lamma Island and the rest of Hong Kong. This notoriously parasitic weed climbs over fences, rooftops and up old Banyan trees. It can grow up to 20 cm a day and can outcompete native trees and shrubs for sunlight, effectively smothering its host. It is a shame to see ancient trees covered by Mikania and to know very well that they would die prematurely due to this aggressive eco-invader. Even though much effort has been made to eradicate such weeds, there is still a great need to persevere for the sake of precious local plant life.
Protection, conservation and habitat management are active measures to prevent the occupation of invasive alien plant and animal species and the threats they pose to the survival of local ecology and indigenous plants. In all cases the key is maintaining a balance between conservation and sustainable development. Conserving plants and animals could be as simple as labelling plants and developing facilities to educate the public on the characteristics of indigenous wildlife which help them fit into their surroundings, their medicinal and culinary values. Endangered plants like Incense trees, Aquilaria sinensis, culturally valuable plants like Thatch Screwpine, Pandanus tectorius, and even more common banana and papaya trees deserve more attention – as they used to be Hong Kong’s economic crops and tell much of our colourful agricultural past.
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The Baroque on Lamma