- Specie: Chinese Banyan (ficus microcarpa)
- Old and valuable tree listing: LCSD CW/6
- Location: Pok Fu Lam Road, corner of Mount Davis road and Smithfield
Hong Kong Island is divided into many parts, or should I say, there are many parts to the Northern end of the Island, but then the rest, beyond the mountains in the middle, is simply the South.
There aren’t many ways you can get to the South of the Island. There is the obvious route via Aberdeen Tunnel. Then there is Pok Fu Lam Road, which bends around the Western end of the Island. Pok Fu Lam is a great place for walks and treespotting, as I have highlighted with Three Brothers, these two Old and valuable members and the Yellow Jade Orchid. Theoretically, you can actually walk all the way to the South of the Island on Pok Fu Lam road, although there are better and more scenic, not to mention hike-friendly trails on the mountain that is probably easier and safer.
But if you are driving, or taking public transport, there’s a point where the road south begins to thin. After all the extended facilities of the University of Hong Kong, you come to a street light, where Pok Fu Lam road is intersected by Mount Davis road and Smithfield. Just at the point, if you look to your left, stands an immense Chinese Banyan, which stands like a gatekeeper to the south side of the Island.
This tree is a member of Hong Kong’s ‘Old and valuable tree’ list as LCSD CW/6, and it is easy to understand why. Even for Chinese Banyans, this is a big tree, with a thick, sculptured trunk featuring a prominent and overt root system that snakes and twists up its limbs.
One prominent feature of this tree is a gaping hole a couple of feet off the ground, I don’t know enough about tree anatomy to venture a guess as to how that got there, but Chinese Banyans are known to grow around other trees, so this might very well have been the emptiness left behind by the original host.
Like many members of its species, this “Guardian of the South” is a clear manifestation of its years. There is no denying the strength of its limbs, its journey through the years. There is also no denying the intricate beauty of its form and composition, its many roots flowing gracefully downwards into the ground, forming endless buttresses like a gothic cathedral, or better yet, the gargoyles that stand guard to defend the grounds against evil spirits.