Friday, 20 January 2012

Penang's dying giant water lilies

I had been hearing some stories about the poor upkeep of the new water lily ponds at the Penang Botanic Garden; that the Victoria amazonica giant water lily plants were dying off. So naturally, I stopped at the Gardens recently to check on these stories.

Sad to say, the stories were true. Within a brief period of about six months, much of the water lily plants, not just the Victoria amazonica, had died off. When the new ponds were opened to the public about seven or eight months ago, there was quite a profusion of water lilies. The giant water lilies were touted as a new tourist attraction for the Gardens. Many people were excited.

During my recent stop, I found only a handful of these giant water lilies remaining. The ones that were still growing looked so much smaller than the ones I first admired in July last year. Some of the Gardens staff were trying to resuscitate the plants by clearing the debris and dumping in new fertiliser, but the root causes of the problem seem to be many-fold. I can think of three right away:

One, the decision to bring in the Victoria amazonica may have been made in haste without a proper understanding of our local weather conditions (did the experts check whether the giant water lilies can withstand the direct open sunlight?); two, the Gardens staff have not been trained properly in the maintenance of these water lily plants (why allow green moss to grow in the ponds and choke off the water lily plants?); and three, the irresponsible social attitude of visitors who threw rubbish into the ponds (it's a social dilemma but what can we do to educate the parents and their children?).

In the meantime, please enjoy what's left of the giant water lilies...

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