- Species: Chinese Banyan (ficus microcarpa)
- Old and valuable tree of Hong Kong list: AFCHSD CW/44, CW/45, CW/47
- Location: Forbes Street, Kennedy Town
If Forbes magazine catered to the interests of the world’s richest individuals, then the stonewall trees on Forbes Street in Kennedy Town certainly represent some of the richest members of the arboreal world in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has many, many walled trees that seem to grow as part of the city’s man-made fabric. They can be found on many of the city’s fortifications and exterior walls, with roots that have become one with the underlying architecture. In the majority of cases, these walled trees are Chinese Banyans, perhaps due to the penetrating nature of their roots.
But nowhere else will you find such an impressive display of such walled Chinese Banyans floating halfway up a steep façade than on Forbes Street, next to the new Kennedy Town MTR station. If you come out of the Forbes Street exit of the MTR station, and simply turn left, then you arrive at the beginning of what turns out to be an adventure in walled trees. There are at least 3 ‘Old and valuable’ tree members – AFCHSD CW/44, CW/45 and CW/47 – on the wall
One after another, the trees line the wall on the left side of the street, their roots reaching downwards, spread out like the spray of a rocket blasting off into space.
Some stand as individuals, isolated from their peers. Others have opted to gather in groups, forming a tangle of roots like a waterfall gushing over a precipice. Together, they form one of the most impressive tree panoramas in all of Hong Kong, and perhaps in any city in the world.
When you reach the end of the minibus stops, the wall suddenly gets higher, which makes for even more impressive trees and roots.
In doing research on the trees, I discovered that the walls were actually not part of some fortification to defend the city, but rather, retention walls to prevent landslides on steep slopes. According to this post by the American Women’s Association of Hong Kong, the trees were actually planted by the government of Hong Kong back in the early 19th century, before the invention of cement, in order to strengthen the stonewalls. Sounds plausible enough, but I’m not convinced since the size of the trees themselves are not that large, so they don’t appear to be centenarians. Nevertheless, they are definitely worthy of the respect and admiration we should be bestowing on our elders.
On a side note, Forbes street and its neighbourhood is well worth a visit. It is lined with quaint cafes and restaurants catering to all manners of tastes. They all offer casual, relax atmospheres that make for a pleasant weekend afternoon or dinner away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s main entertainment districts.