Havana Marabou

The invasive marabou weed has spread from the Cuban countryside and invaded Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 30 August 2018 — On both sides of the Central Highway and the National Highway there is no other plant that dominates  the landscape as much as the invasive marabou weed (called marabú in Cuba, and also called sicklebush in English). However, this thorny bush — which has become a plague in the fields of the island — is no longer just an element of rural zones but has also extended its presence to urban areas.

In the central Havana intersection formed by the streets Carlos III, Infanta and Ayestarán, a marabou bush grows defiant a few inches from where collective taxis circulate and tourists take pictures. The majority of passers-by do not realize the presence of the plant, others joke about the progress of its invasion into the cities and a few remember that currently the invasive plant is not seen in a bad light.

What until a few years ago was considered an undesirable species has become the raw material of charcoal that the country exports to the US, Europe and other regions. The authorities recently commissioned China to manufacture a prototype marabou harvester  to alleviate the hard work now carried out by brigades of men with gloves and machetes. Some craftsmen also use it for wood carvings and accessories, while more than a few farmers consider it an insurmountable barrier that prevents trespassing by strangers to their lands.

Thus, slowly, after displacing the Royal Palm in the countryside, the marabou has managed to get people accustomed to its presence and to begin to take advantage of its thick branches. It has won the battle against the other plants, the insults and the state plans to finish it off.


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