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It's Time to Start Planting
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Spring has sprung. Now is the time for the trees to give us their first and most spectacular seasonal gift: the gallery of spring colors as the leaves come out, and cherries and peaches bloom.

The display is free, democratic and sensational. It is stunning in Beijing at this time of year.

Spring sunshine transforms landscapes. The season offers sophisticated forms of pleasure. Beijing's primary schools are allowed this year to arrange excursions for their students after a ban on them for safety concerns for three years.

Spring in the city seems to stick in our minds as a succession of clean, bright sunny days.

But there are some indications to the contrary.

Willows, which present us with the very first fresh color of green, will soon send us one more gift an unpleasant one, this time.

Willow catkins are expected to fly with the wind, making an image of "snow falling" in the spring.

Poplars are also generous enough to give out catkins.

The snow-like flowers from these street trees are annoying, especially for those who suffer from allergies. The small white tufts are a main cause of asthma during spring.

The Beijing authorities chose willows and poplars as street trees because they are cheap and they grow fast. We do not have to wait too long before they offer us shade.

But they were ignorant of the fact that some kinds of poplars send out catkins.

To solve the problem, Beijing has begun replacing the catkin-producing poplars with others such as Chinese scholar trees, pines and cypresses. The replacement project is thoughtful for residents in the city as well as for creating a clean environment.

The landscape engineers should have thought more carefully about the trees they chose before planting them throughout the city.

The replacement project will cost a lot of money, even though some of the trees will die naturally.

Spring is the season to plant trees. Tree planting, however, does not seem to attract broad participation.

The National People's Congress, the country's legislative body, validated a bill in 1981 on the nationwide voluntary tree-planting program. This resolution encourages every able-bodied citizen between the ages of 11 and 60 to plant three to five trees every year or do the equivalent amount of work in seedling cultivation, tree tending or other services. The latest report on the program found that 2.23 billion trees were planted last year. More than 400 million citizens evade their obligation to the tree-planting program.

The program needs to enlist help from more people.

Spring is a good time for clearing heads and making new resolutions. Enjoy the first seasonal delight of our trees and volunteer your labor for tree planting.

(China Daily April 7, 2006)


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