Attack of the poplar trees | Being Beijinger

Photograph: Reuters

By China Report ASEAN

Now spring is underway in Beijing, the city is under attack from an unusual enemy. Cottonwood poplar trees are releasing their annual bombardment of fluffy white seeds across the capital. So why is there so much of this sneeze-inducing white stuff?

In the 1960’s the government was beginning to develop Beijing into the modern city that it is today. Millions of poplar and willow trees were planted to give the new city streets some greenery.

The seeds of the cottonwood poplar tree cause havoc each spring in Beijing



But why plant a tree that causes so much chaos every spring? The answer is a pragmatic one. Cottonwood poplar trees were cheap to buy. When you’re buying in the kind of bulk needed to beautify Beijing, cost is a core issue. In addition this hardy species is able to survive whatever life throws at them from sandstorms to poor soil. They also have impressive lifespans, being able to live for up to 100 years.

The cotton invasion got so serious that in 2015 the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry tried to reduce the amount of air-borne seeds by injecting the trees with medicine and sending out teams of cleaners and collectors to lessen the impact.

Even though the floating cotton can be a real nuisance to cyclists and pedestrians, some people think it makes the city prettier at this time of year. The jury is out on that one. Either way, it’s all part of the fun of being a Beijinger.




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