The Moving Trees of Myanmar by Graham Dew

One effect of the fifty years of military rule in Myanmar is that foreigners have not, until recently, been able to visit and witness all the wonders of nature that country has to offer. Last month I was very fortunate to visit with my daughter to explore this mysterious and enjoyable country. Arriving in mid-February we found ourselves in the middle of a mini-heatwave, brought on, we were told, by the El Niño event in the southern Pacific. This pushed the temperature up to 39°C, the kind of temperature more normally experienced in April or May. It is strange to think that a change in warm water off the coast of South America could have such an effect three-quarters of the way around the planet.

One result of the unseasonably warm temperatures was that it precipitated an earlier than usual start to the largely undocumented migration of red-cotton trees. In order to best preserve their beautiful pinky-red leaves, these trees leave their normal locations and head towards water, often along the banks of the Ayarwaddy river or the shores Inle Lake. Since our journey took in both stretches of water, we were very fortunate to witness this movement of the trees during our travels. We understood later that it is very unusual to see this event during the daytime, so we count ourselves especially blessed to witness this little known phenomenon which has inspired stories from the marching Great Birnam Wood in Shakespeare's Macbeth to the Ents of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.