Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on the Morning Trail

  • Specie: Chinese Banyan and (dead) Cinnamon Camphor
  • Location, Kotewall Road and overpass at the start of the Morning Trail above Hatton Road

I love Chinese Banyans (ficus microcarpa) and their ficus kins because they have these crazy roots that grow on literally anything, like the side of walls, but there’s a dark side to their nature. It’s easy to forget that they are also semi-parasidic, and some members of the species grow on other trees. In fact, many banyans are known as ‘strangler figs’ because they usually kill their hosts, strangling it beneath its roots.

In most cases it’s difficult to find proof of kill since we come across the banyans years later when the body of the original host has long since decomposed into dust, but not with this particular Chinese Banyan killer on the intersection of Kotewall Road and the overpass that bridges Hatton Road and the Morning Trail leading up to Victoria Peak.

Morning Trail
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The tree looks innocent enough when seen from Kotewall Road, since it appears to be just another walled Chinese Banyan, sitting on top of a ledge with roots raining down to the street. Similarly, there is a central trunk that overhangs the street under a full canopy. But a closer look at the same tree from the bridge on Hatton Road reveals a less than amicable duplicity.

Morning Trail
Dark side of the banyan

One limb of the tree reaches back into the hill and forms another entity altogether, with aerial roots that drop down to encircle an innocent camphor tree. At first glance, the scene appears harmless enough, with the two trees seemingly engage in an intimate and passionate embrace. A second look at the severely pruned camphor reveals that it has been snuffed out, suffocated by its aggressor, dead.

There are probably easy explanations to the attack. The Chinese Banyan probably wanted to get higher up on the hill to get more sunlight. The camphor was probably also blocking the light, so the attack served two purposes.

Ultimately, the Chinese Banyan got its way, and in a few decades, it will form a spectacular, albeit, schizophrenic personality like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. From the front, this tree will grow into a grand, majestic giant with a beautiful facade above the road. From the side, it will sport a wild and savage character rampaging up the hill.



Categories:Camphor tree, Chinese Banyan, Hiking, urbantrees, Urbantrees of Hong Kong, Walled treesTags: , , , , , ,


humble student of the glory of trees

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