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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Climate Change Gets Mai Attention

Bad news for Year of the Pig: The beloved flower of southern Vietnam is blooming three months ahead of schedule.

imageBlooming Hoa Mai

in Saigon, Tet 2005

Photo: Tom Legg, The Daai Tou Laam Diary

Tet is still months away; lunar new year, the biggest holiday in Vietnam and much of the rest of Asia, won’t arrive till February 18, 2007.

But Vietnam Net reports that the traditional good luck flower of the south—bong mai—a shrub carefully pruned and coddled to bloom for the occasion, has already flowered. This is bad news all around for Year of the Pig.

“It is estimated that a half of the apricot flowers will not be marketable as they have blossomed sooner than expected. Households that grow apricots for sale are unhappy as they will not be able to sell apricots to earn money for Tet. Moreover, they fear that the early blossoming will bring bad luck in the next year.”

Called “apricot,” the traditional mai flower is actually fruitless. It refers to several varieties of ochna, most of them with radiant yellow flowers. The oldest species has five petals, but breeders have developed fluffier varieties: Sa Dec has nine petals, My Tho 24 petals, Go Den 48 petals, and Ben Tre 120. Tricking a mai plant to bloom precisely at the new year requires experience, persistent attention, and skill. Even so, the weather must cooperate.

“Hoang Trong, who plans to sell 5,000 apricot ornamental trees on the market, said that he tried to apply many measures to hold back the blossoming,” but failed.  Temperatures were too high for too long a stretch.

In Ben Tre province, where most of the mai nurseries are concentrated, a district business official predicts losses of several billion VND.  The effects may ripple throughout Vietnam, though, since bare mai plants signal a poor year.

The early mai flowers provide yet more anecdotal evidence of climate change. In the UK, there are several ongoing efforts to pull together the findings from botanists and gardeners about changing behaviors of plants and animals. In our own locale,  M. Sinclair Stevens has been faithfully carrying on a one-person study. Zanthan Gardens, as far as we know, is the primordial garden blog and celebrates its fifth anniversary today. We need more “anecdotal evidence.”

Thanks to neighbor Katie for lending us An Inconvenient Truth, with two hours of scientific evidence!

In a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, several states are asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, a primary cause of global warming. Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre (speaking for federal leaders and their friends in the auto industry)  told the court yesterday, “Now is not the time to exercise such authority, in light of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding global climate change.”

But Mr. Solicitor there IS no such uncertainty, scientific or anecdotal. Get off the phone with the auto manufacturers and talk to a scientist. Or spend a day with the mai growers of southern Vietnam.

“Year of the Pig” is about right.

Posted by Julie on 11/30 at 04:25 PM
Cut-Flower TradeEcologyPoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink