Gov’t encourages Palm Sunday planting to save native tree

Colchian box-tree is an endemic and endangered species. Photo by Nodar Tskhvirashvili, RFE/RL, 06 Apr 2017 - 11:23, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian government has launched a campaign to save the Colchian box-tree in time for Palm Sunday, the important religious holiday which marks Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Georgia will celebrate Palm Sunday on April 9. The box-tree is a symbol of Palm Sunday and is actively cut and sold during the week leading to Easter.

After wishing Georgians to enjoy the upcoming feast at today’s government meeting, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili encouraged everyone to plant a Colchian box-tree instead of cutting one down.

Looking back, we recall that this plant has been brutally damaged in previous years… We are all celebrating [Palm Sunday] but we should also take care of the plant as well,” Kvirikashvili said.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili encourages everyone to plant a Colchian box-tree instead of cutting one down. Photo by PM's press office

For this Palm Sunday holiday, the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Georgia have been encouraging people to refrain from illegally cutting the box-tree, since the Colchian box-tree in both an endemic and endangered species.

A few dozen years is needed for the plant to grow and recover from its current population decline. One reason for this decline is the uncontrolled cutting of the plant.

Because of this illegal cutting, extermination or injury of tree branches is punishable by law. According to the level of damage, criminal responsibility measures may also be considered. People found to have illegally cut or damaged the box-tree can be fined anywhere between 200-500 GEL, but if the damage exceeds 1,000 GEL, legal proceeding can begin.

The box-tree can only be purchased from privately owned nurseries or from artificial plantations, according to the plant origin notice issued by the local government authorities.