The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tallest hedge lonely at the top
- No funds to nurture wilting tree
The tallest hedge in the wall in Imphal West. picture by Eastern Projections.

Imphal, Sept. 12: Deserted by its disillusioned nurturer, the world's tallest potted hedge is wasting away.

The towering plant, mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records, has been decaying since its Manipuri owner, Moirangthem Oken, abandoned it in protest against the lack of 'financial and moral support' from the government.

Henkai Singsit, who took over as caretaker from Oken, admits he is unable to properly nurture the precious plant. The 61-feet topiary, known in Manipur as samballei sekpil, is wilting at the top portion and Singsit believes its days are numbered.

'At this rate, it won't be long before we lose a national treasure. Intensive care and a lot of money are required to save the plant. I have no such resource,' he says.

Oken relocated from Sayang in Imphal West, where the topiary is, to his native village in Bishenpur district about 16 months ago.

He had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi before that and submitted a memorandum, seeking her support in maintaining the plant. Sonia promptly wrote a letter to chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, asking him to do the needful. However, nothing came of it.

Singsit, too, has petitioned MLAs and ministers for help. 'Oken loved the plant more than his life. He spent whatever he earned on it. While he was in Delhi meeting Sonia, Oken's young son died. This added to his frustration,' he says.

Oken began tending to his prized possession in 1981, spending over Rs 20 lakh during the next decade. His efforts bore fruit in 1992, when the Limca Book of Records recognised the topiary as the tallest in the country at 20 feet.

The plant was pruned to make it look like a shatra, which is an integral part of Meitei culture.

The topiary got the ultimate honour in 1999 with the Guinness authorities recognising it as the tallest potted hedge in the world at a height of 50 feet. It has since grown to 61 feet, attracting the attention of foreign dignitaries, tourists and botanists alike.

Singsit claims the South Korean government wanted to buy the plant (Duranta repens Linn) ' skyflower in English and nilkanta in Hindi ' and offered a huge amount of money, but Oken refused to sell it. 'Oken said it was a public treasure and he could not make money out of it.'

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