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Silk cotton tree must stay

Heather-Lynn Evanson

Silk cotton tree must stay

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THE SILK COTTON TREE in Warrens, St Michael, has found human friends amid rumours that the chainsaw might fall on it as soon as this weekend.
The tree was thrust into the limelight earlier this week, with reports that it was earmarked to be cut down to make way for a road widening project. 
Yesterday, concerned citizens, Opposition Members of Parliament, and representatives from the Future Centre Trust as well as several Government ministries, gathered near One Accord Plaza to lobby for the life of the tree that has kept its neighbour’s, the almost 300-year-old boabab, company for at least two centuries.
They heard from a dendrologist (one who studies trees) that the silk cotton tree was a perfectly healthy specimen, and from a noted historian and professor that rumoured plans for its destruction carried a similar curse to that which was said to protect the Egyptian tomb of King Tutankhamun.
One woman, armed with a length of chain, threatened to chain herself to the tree to prevent its destruction, while MP for the area (St Michael North East), Mia Mottley and representative for St Thomas, Cynthia Forde, spoke on the need to save not only the tree, but the island’s environment as a whole.
Dendrologist in the Ministry of the Environment, Nigel Jones, said that contrary to information within the public domain, the silk cotton tree showed no signs of ill health.
“In my opinion, the tree is healthy. The leaves are not undersized, the canopy is not showing signs of heavy crown dieback (that is, the amount of branch tips in the crown that are dead) for a tree of that age, the stem is not necrotic and the base is still clad with its bark which shows some degree of its health,” he said, after examining the tree yesterday.
“When I look at a tree like this, my opinion would be that the last thing to do would be to get rid of it.”
However, he stressed the tree’s removal could come down to a cost issue.
It was unlikely that it could be relocated and if it were relocated, the question was whether it would survive, he said. And planting a new one would not make up for losing this one, he added.
“The dilemma here is whether or not the adjustments that would be done to the road, whether or not that would compensate for the existence of the tree. The full decision would be made on a cost benefit analysis,” Jones said.
In the end, the towering tree was given a temporary reprieve after Minister of Transport John Boyce and Permanent Secretary Lionel Nurse met with members of the Future Centre Trust and Watson on site.
It was later agreed that the issue would be thrashed out at a town hall meeting which would be held to discuss how the tree could be incorporated into the project.