- Species: Yellow Jade Orchid tree (magnolia (michelia) champaca)
- Location: Pok Fu Lam Road, entrance of the HKU’s Flora Ho Sports Centre just south of Pokfield Road
There are two types of ‘Jade Orchid’ trees in Hong Kong. There is the popular and quite common ‘White Jade Orchid’ trees (magnolia (michelia) x alba), which are blooming right now. If you keep your nose open for the clean sweet fragrance of its delicate flowers, they are hard to miss since they can be found on most city blocks with any kind of greenery. If you are really lucky, you might even encounter a seller of the flowers (I’ve seen one in Central), or your taxi driver might have a bunch on his dashboard to perfume his cab.
But there is the much rarer species called ‘Yellow Jade Orchid’ tree (magnolia (michelia) champaca), which I have yet to encounter, until today, when I happened upon my first on a walk on Pok Fu Lam road.
This tree is easy miss, as it is actually growing below street level, from the lower levels of HKU’s Flora Ho Sports Centre, just up the street from the corner of Pokfield Road and the ‘Three Chinese Banyan brothers.’
While there are clear similarities between the yellow and white genus of these tree, both are in the michelia and/or magnolia category, the yellow version has slightly smaller and more tapered leaves, which accentuates the bright flowers.
Interestingly, the ‘Yellow Jade Orchid’ tree appears to be the original form of the genus, with the ‘White Jade Orchid’ actually being a hybrid between the yellow-flowered magnolia champaca and another tree called the magnolia montana.
In addition to being in bloom, this particular tree has also fruited, which was a bonus.
The fragrance of the flowers is what makes both the Yellow and White Jade Orchid trees so memorable – actually their strong limbs, particularly for the White Jade Orchid trees when they reach old age, and their dense, full foliage of big, broad leaves also offer much to admire.
In this respect, Yellow Jade Orchid
trees are also called Joy Perfume trees (thanks Wikipedia: wink, wink), likely because its scent was used as part of the formula behind Jean Patou‘s perfume ‘Joy’, which is the second best selling perfume in history behind Chanel No.5.