Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trees: Privet

Privet was originally the name for the European semi-evergreen shrub Ligustrum vulgare, and later also for the more reliably evergreen Ligustrum ovalifolium (Japanese privet),

Privet shrubs are so commonly used in hedges that they are often referred to as "privet hedges." They were brought in to New Zealand because they make very good hedges because of their dense foliage. But if left unprune, it can grow to become a tree of fifteen feet. When the flowers are in bloom, they cover the whole tree. The flowers are small and fragrant and borne in panicles. 

It was a mistake, Privet is a huge problem in New Zealand and the fruits, little drupes are poisonous.  Privet pollen is known to cause asthma and eczema in sufferers.  

This is the tree I unwittingly almost killed the water engineer. It was just before we had D. We moved into this little cosy two bedroom cottage like flat. I saw these lovely creamish looking flowers which reminded me of rambutan flowers. They had a strong nice scent. The big tree was at the corner where our bedroom was.

I cut some flowers and brought them into the house as a centre piece of our table. This table was both our dining table and where the water engineer did his research work for his post graduate studies. The whole evening, he was unwell, having a humongous headache, eyes almost permanently closed and his nose dripping like a leaky tap.

He got sicker and sicker. Then he realised it was the flowers that were making him sick. He threw them out but he was still sick. A neighbour told us it was the privet tree. We told the landlord, and he was most accommodating. He said he knew some people get very sick from the privet pollen allergies. The water engineer was one of the unfortunate ones.  The landlord had  the tree chopped down.

Now, when I go for long walks with the water engineer, he can smell the privet flowers a mile away, and his nose starts to twitch. We rehash the story of how I tried to murder him with flowers.

Allergies are becoming an increasingly problematic issue in New Zealand. Asthma is on the rise. The local council should be given the authorities to go round the neighbourhood to warn offending tree owners to prune the trees the same way as they warn illegal dumping of rubbish.

Tree number 8 for K. for the 8th day of the new year.

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