The balance of nature

Female sunbird sipping nectar from peacock tree flower.

I was just thinking about getting rid of some ornamental plants in our garden to make way for more edible plants, and was reminded by my conscience of how we humans tend to force our environment into shapes and forms that we find pleasing, regardless of how beneficial or otherwise it may be to the environment.

Why the prick of conscience? Well, consider this example:

I thought about cutting down one of my peacock trees to have more space to plant veggies. It’s just ornamental, right? I mean, it’s tall, bushy and is loaded with colourful flowers. I love how pretty it looks! But then it takes up quite a bit of space and is quite thorny and can be dangerous. I’ve been scratched and pricked by those vicious thorns any number of times.

But I am not the only one with an interest in the tree.

Several sunbirds visit daily, hopping from branch to branch to feed on nectar from the flowers.

Other birds like sparrows and mynahs perch on it for rest and shade.

Garden lizard in the peacock tree. Notice the big thorns along the stem it's on?

Green parakeets come by when there are bean pods on the tree. It’s amusing watching them split the pods open to eat the beans inside, and drop the empty pods to the ground when they’re done.

Some kind of butterfly or moth likes the tree, too, as evidenced by the little caterpillars that hang down on sticky threads and land on unwary heads or bodies if you walk under the tree. Yuk!

Garden lizards use the tree for shelter, and I think they also eat insects they find up there.

Ants scuttle along the branches, doing whatever they do. In fact, some of the older branches appear to have rotted inside, and ants have set up residence in there.

In response to the ants and the rotting wood, woodpeckers have also been attracted to the tree, tap-tap-tapping at the wood and getting nourishment.

And let’s not forget the earthworms that would migrate when the shade of the tree is removed.

I’m sure there are other creatures I haven’t noticed that find some use in the peacock tree. My point in all this is, everything in nature works together in perfect harmony. When we remove one aspect of the environment, everything is thrown off balance for a while, until they settle down again. In essence, that tree is an integral habitat – just one of the several that make up our garden and neighbourhood.

So, what would probably happen if I cut down the peacock tree is that the garden lizards, ants and caterpillars would have to take up residence elsewhere, affecting the overall ecosystem, and the birds wouldn’t come by as much or at all. And we wouldn’t have the pretty flowers to brighten up the place any more.

Ah, the dilemma…

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The balance of nature — 1 Comment

  1. I have been thinking about the same problem too…I planted the peacock shrubs for shade as well as they grow very fast. Now I am not sure if I should clear them to create more space for the custard apple tree. Well I keep deferring this decision. After reading this post of yours – on keeping the ecological balance we set up unintentionally, I will leave them be….lol! Thanks!