Trees in and around
by Tom McLaughlin. Posted on July 29, 2012, Sunday
ANOTHER Kuching jam! As the car idles and the children become restless in the back seat, tempers can become short while crawling up to the next traffic light or roundabout. Perchance this could be a moment to enjoy the 31,181 trees planted along the roadside during the past years.
You may want to try and identify the species as you teach your children science. One can make a small game of it by repeating the scientific names and their local common names. The Latin names will help young tongues wrap around the words that they will face later in their science classes.
Why did they plant the trees? Why bother spending the money? There are many reasons to continue this worthwhile project.
During the massive thunderstorms and downpours so frequent in Kuching, the trees help hold the soil and prevent run off. Without them, the millions of gallons of water would run brown with soil creating muddy roads and sidewalks.
As the number of cars increase, the amount of air pollution spewed into the air also increases especially during hot, stagnant and dry season days. Without them, asthma and other respiratory problems would become epidemic as more and more people would begin to suffer. As every Primary 1 pupil knows, the trees break down auto emissions in return for healthy oxygen.
Finally, the colour green has a definite psychological effect, although the research is in a state of flux. Some think the colour green is soothing because somewhere in our primitive brain it relates to food while brown informs of us impending famine.
When people were shown a green triangle before given a tin can, they were able to find more creative uses then when shown other colours. Before television appearances, guests wait in a green room, thought to reduce nervousness. Green is central both in Islam and Christianity.
According to Dr SR Zainudin, in a recent Unimas study, there are about 214 species of trees along our roadways. The large number of different trees is important to maintain the population. If only one species is planted and disease spreads through, then only those particular trees would be affected and not all of them. Should drought occur, drought tolerant trees survive, saving the city money because only a small portion would have to be replanted.
There are five common species found along our roadways and they account for one third of the trees, according to Dr Zainudin.
The tanjung tree (Mimusops elengi) has very strong wood, perfect for those monsoon winds and violent thunderstorms. It is relatively shade tolerant and survives next to buildings and other structures. There are many medicinal uses for the flowers and fruits, which can be gathered in April and June respectively.
Cinnamomum iners, the scientific name for the kayu manis hutan tree, is tolerant of poor soils and grows rapidly. It is a popular shade tree that is resistant to most diseases except for a fungus that attacked it Java.
Tabebuia pentaphylla has many names but is known in Malaysia as the cherry blossoms of Penang. Native to Central America and used as a landscape tree, it has brilliant pink flowers devoid of leaves during the dry season. It usually flowers during the last week of May.
Albizia saman or the popular and easily recognised raintree (pukul lima in Malay) can as a mature tree absorb 28.5 tons of carbon dioxide every year. A native of the dry savannah of northern South America, it tolerates almost any kind of soil.
Andira surinamensis, another South American native, often called the Goa tree, grows to around 25 to 30 metres. Closely related to A inermis, the plant grows well in poor soil and provides wonderful shade.
You and your children can enjoy identifying these trees as you travel the highways and byways.
For more read ‘Urban Trees in Kuching North City and Unimas, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak’ by Zainudin, et al in Journal of Tropical Agriculture Science, 35(1): p. 27-32 (2012); proto.org; worldagroforestrycentre.org; www.frim.gov.my; and mylamankambatik.blogspot.com.