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May 9, 2014

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Catkin-control scheme sparks row

A SCHEME in Putuo District to stop poplar, phoenix and willow trees producing catkins that can cause allergic reactions in people has met with a mixed response.

For the past two years, authorities have been injecting a liquid agent into trees on five roads in the district, resulting in an 85 percent decrease in the amount of catkins produced, officials said.

“There were almost no willow catkins on the five streets this year,” said Wang Ning, from the Putuo District Landscape Architecture Construction Development Co.

As a result, Wang’s company has this season received just 10 calls from people complaining about the catkins, as opposed to more than 50 in previous years.

“A woman who lives on Tongchuan Road (one of the five involved in the scheme) was so worried about the spring catkins that she rang us before they even began to fall, so she will be very happy with the results,” he said.

The agent injected into the trees was introduced to Shanghai from Beijing. It works by curbing bud growth, which in turn reduces the amount of catkins produced.

The process is neither harmful to the trees nor local wildlife, and at 10 yuan (US$1.60) per bottle — which is enough to treat 15 trees for two years — it is very cost-effective.

The controversy, therefore, is less of an environmental issue, and more a matter of personal preference.

While some people dread the annual sight of catkins blowing along the city’s streets, others regard it as a beautiful springtime treat.

Xie Yin, who lives in Minhang District, is in no doubt about her feelings on the issue.

“I hate catkins,” she said. “They get up my nose and set off my allergy. My skin gets itchy, I want to sneeze and I feel uncomfortable.”

“I hope they disappear as soon as possible,” she said.

Zhang Lina, a university student in Yangpu District, disagrees.

“When the catkins are floating in the wind it’s like a snow flurry. It’s beautiful,” she said.

“There have even been poems written about it.”

Others have complained that poplars injected with the fluid are not as beautiful as those left untreated, while workers responsible for the city’s flora say the branches of treated trees grow much faster and need to be trimmed more often.

The Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau said for the time being, the scheme will continue, but only in Putuo.

Authorities there confirmed that trees will be injected, but only those in residential areas, where the threat to people with allergies is highest.

In several other districts, officials have said they will avoid planting trees that produce catkins in residential areas.


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