- Specie: Cotton Tree (bombax ceiba)
- Location: Green Lane, Happy Valley; various
One of my favourite tree species in Hong Kong has its own street. The Cotton Tree lends its name to Cotton Tree Drive, the main thoroughfare that connects the main financial district of Hong Kong and Mid-levels, where I do much of my walking.
The specie, bombax ceiba, is a native tree. Tall and erect with broad limbs that reach out almost horizontally from typically straight thick trunks, Cotton Trees evoke a distinct outline in the city’s urbanscape. For much of the year, many individuals are leaveless, with naked branches like skeletons.
But when spring arrives, the limbs awake with bright cup-shaped flowers that can be the size of a rice bowl. While the most common Cotton Trees have bright crimson flowers, some individuals offer up orange and mustard colour buds. On one border of Victoria Park, there are three individuals showing all three colours.
As you can see from this example growing on Green Lane in Happy Valley, a Cotton Tree that is in bloom is simply spectacular. The flowers adorn the bare limbs like ornaments, while the tangental angles of the branches form intricate patterns that resembled complex fractals.
As you can see, the effect is magical. The whole tree evokes classic compositional forms, like a live painting with the sky as the canvas.
Even the flowers when they fall to the ground are spectacular.
There are plenty of Cotton Trees around Hong Kong. In addition to lining Cotton Tree Drive, they can be found in most neighbourhoods. At least two Cotton Trees – both inside Hong Kong Park – have made it on Hong Kong’s Old and Valueable list.
Some notable Cotton Trees I have noticed include a couple in the yard outside Jardin House in Central, one growing inside the University of Hong Kong near the Kotewall Road entrance, and several on the border of Victoria Park (on the Tin Hau side). Other great places to catch these trees include Shum Shui Po and Cheung Chau.