Areas for growing of “bua tong” should not be expanded: ONEP

Areas where “bua tong” or Mexican sunflower plant have existed should not be further expanded as it is a kind of weed on the list of invasive alien species in Thailand, said Raviwan Puridet, secretary-general of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP).

Mrs Raviwan said this in responding to a call from Assoc Prof Sasivimon Swangpol, of the Department of Plant Science, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, for all concerned agencies to work out measures to prevent the spread of “bua tong” , of which scientific name is Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsley) A. Gray, or commonly called “tree marigold” and Mexican sunflower.

The call was made out of concerns for the eco-system.

Mrs Raviwan said ONEP has sent teams of officials from the bio-diversity office to meet local agencies and farmers in areas where “bua tong” has been planted to promote understanding about ecological impact of the weed.

However, this kind of weed has not yet been found in conservation forests.  Most of bua tong is found in agricultural and deteriated areas, she said.

Mrs Raviwan said bua tong has long been on the list of invasive alien species in Thailand.  However, since its flowers are beautiful and become a symbol for tourism in the North, particularly Mae Hong Son and nearby provinces, the control of it from being further expanded must be carried out carefully to avoid affecting tourism and the local people.

“It is not that ONEP has overlooked this invasive alien species.  A measure which will be taken to prevent the spread of the plant is to prohibit the expansion of bua tong fields.  Bua tong should not be planted in conservation forests.  We have to promote understanding with local agencies and farmers,” she said.

It was Asso Prof Sasivimon who first raised for observation the threat from bua tong, which has been widespread in Mae Hong Son province, saying that it could destroy the country’s bio-diversity and eco-system.  She suggested that the areas for growing bua tong should be limited and the plant should not be taken to be grown anywhere else.