|Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 7, April 30 - May 6|
Both of these kinds of fluff commonly cause hayfever
and other mild allergies, so if you find yourself red-eyed and sneezing
in the springtime, you can probably blame it on the poplar and willow
trees. Poplars are not all bad though. In 1956, the poplarís hardiness
and speed of growth made it the ideal tree for the PRCís first large
scale tree planting project, undertaken to prevent agricultural fields
from erosion by wind and water. Poplars grow well in the dry, harsh
climates of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Northeast China.
The ever-caring Beijing city government has taken
hayfever-causing fluff into account in their plan for the greening of
Beijing and their intention is to slowly replace all the willows and
poplars with gingko trees which donít cause allergies, have leaves that
can be made into medicine and are reputed to help reduce air pollution
by absorbing and processing certain air-borne pollutants.
Poplars have a short life span and generally only
last about 30 years, so aside from the usual destruction that accompanies
construction projects and road building, tree-felling will not be necessary.
The Beijing City Forestry Department claim to have planted 46 million
gingko trees in nurseries outside the city and intend to put them all
over the city as poplars die and willow trees get felled by construction
projects. The trees are multi-purpose. Grown in densely planted orchards,
the leaves are harvested regularly and used for traditional Chinese
medicine. When the tree is eight years old, its leaves are no longer
good for making medicine, but the tree stands about three meters tall
and is ready for life in the big city outside the orchard.
So, Fluffy, enjoy the white floating stuff while
you can, because it wonít be around for much longer. As you contemplate
the passing of the poplars and the willows, I recommend you read one
of Mao Zedongís best-loved poems, Reply to Li Shuyi. The poem was written
for his Red Army comrade Li Shuyi whose husband died at the same time
Mao lost his first wife. The Great Helmsman uses a popular metaphor
to describe his wife and her husband: the poplar and willow trees respectively.
A Reply to Li Shuyi