- Species: Candlenut Tree, Mango Tree, Rose Frangipani, Hoop Pine, Dragon Tree
- Location: Tai Kwan, Central
Tai Kwun, literally ‘big hall’ in Chinese, used to be the main headquarter of the then “Royal” Hong Kong Police. Formally and formerly named the Central Police Station, the facility is an extensive complex that used to house not only the core policy station with its processing facilities and offices, but also cell blocks for those incarcerated for one reason or another. Whether you had anything to do with the police or not, everyone knew where Tai Kwun was. But like most official [read government] facilities, it was closed to the public for much of its history. Until now that is.
Tai Kwun is officially Hong Kong’s latest culture and leisure hub. After a couple of year’s of redevelopment, the site is now open to the public, complete with cafes, shops, museum, theatre and yes, trees! In fact, the developers, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, has done a remarkable job with preserving many of the trees on the site.
Even better is the fact the developers have turned the trees into showpieces, each with its own number and even a plaque labelling the name of specie in both English and Chinese.
The most prominent representative of the arboreal world is Tree Number 5, a massive Mange Tree that stands at one corner of the main courtyard of the ex-Police Station.
The Mange Tree is magnificent, greeting visitors as they ascent the two on-ramps into the main square of the complex, and providing shades to those seeking shelter from the summer sun as they take in the newly converted locale, or simply rest their tired feet.
If you take the stairs on the opposite corner of the Mango Tree, you’d go through a narrow path that leads to the underside of one of two new cubic towers, where you’d come across another set to stairs that lead up to Tree Number 8, a rose Frangipani, or plumeria rubia.
As far as frangipanis go, this particular tree is quite mature. Its gnarly trunk and glorious crown is a nice contrasts to the typically tamed and manicured versions adorning shopping malls and even some parks. It is not as impressive as the ones in Sham Shui Po Park, but quite a sight nevertheless, particularly with its rosy flowers blooming now.
Then there are Tree Number 6 and its neighbour Tree Number 7, two Candlenut trees (aleurites moluccana) growing in the same courtyard.
Candlenut trees are quite common in Hong Kong, growing on many streets such as the sides of the thoroughfare Gloucester Road on the side of Wanchai North. These two specimens are not particularly old or outstanding, but in their dedicated pots, they are well preserved and represent fine examples of the specie that you can really get close to.
In the same yard is Tree Number 9, an exotic Hoop Pine (araucaria cunninghamii) that originates from Australia and the South Pacific.
The Hoop Pine is not particular rare in Hong Kong and looks even a bit out of place compared to the other more decorative trees in the yard, but provides a nice contrast. Besides, it’s deep green colouring helps to match the modern grey metal towers hovering above. For another examples of a Hoop Pine, visit the mammals enclosures in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, where grows a member that has been designated an Old and Value tree of Hong Kong.
Off on a path somewhere between the main and prison courtyards is Tree Number 11, a Dragon Tree, or dracaena marginata.
While it looks a bit like a potted plant, this Dragon Tree shows its age with its height, which reaches as high as roof of the particular cell block. Graceful and sublime, the Dragon Tree is a worth the effort to seek it out.
From my brief visits and explorations of Tai Kwun, those are the only significant trees I’ve come across, which leads me to wonder where are the other numbers, i.e. Tree 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10. Let me know if you find them and I’ll include them in this post.
Another worth tree worth looking out for is actually located just outside the Old Baily Street entrance of Tai Kwum, where an elder Chinese Banyan, or ficus microcarpa, stands at guard.
I loved the fact that the developers of Tai Kwun, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, have preserved the trees in the complex. It adds an extra dimension for visitors (at least for me), plus provides much needed shade against the harsh sunlight. Let me know what you think.
Categories:Candlenut Tree, Dragon Tree (dracaena marginata), Frangipani, Hoop Pine (araucaria cunninghamii), Mango (magnifier indica 杧果), parks and gardens, Street trees, urbantrees, Urbantrees of Hong Kong
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