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Friday September 9, 2011

Passion for plants and trees

DISTED College’s South Australian Matriculation programme’s biology lecturer Angel Lai Ee May is passionate about the majestic and shady trees found around Penang.

Going great lengths to promote a greater appreciation of the towering greens among her students, she endears them to their natural heritage through extramural activities that enrich their learning experiences beyond the classroom.

“The campus location in Macalister Road is blessed with many elegant old trees of historical significance.

“I hold nature treasure hunts for the students to get them better acquainted with the different tree species found in the vicinity of the college.

“Games about plants are also organised for them at the Penang Botanic Gardens,” she said.

For the general public, Lai has also co-authored a book which is touted as an authoritative companion on Penang’s botanical inheritance.

A botanist by training, she was one of the three collaborating authors for the newly-launched, ‘Heritage Trees of Penang’, which features the island’s green heritage of over 200 tree species.

The 400-page publication, with Simon Gardner and Pindar Sidisunthorn as the other two collaborators, was launched by Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas recently in conjunction with the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site’s third anniversary celebrations.

Lai said the book was written in such a way to appeal to the general public and not just botanists and nature enthusiasts.

“Our rich national heritage is not just about historical buildings and multi-ethnic cultures. It’s important too to include the environmental perspective when billing our national treasures.

“Besides botanical descriptions, the book relates interesting local beliefs, religious connotations and significant stories about each tree species as well as its locations and uses.

“It reveals some magnificent trees dating back to the 19th century such as the angsana species.

“Penang now has the best and oldest collection of angsana trees, the largest of which is found in front of the Penang Hospital,” she pointed out.