Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Environment: What Giant Trees Are These?

Tree along Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Image from PE 傅@ Sina
Every time when I walked past, Haiphong Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, I will be fascinated by the monstrous trees which spawned majestically from the narrow slope of Kowloon Park. I always feel that if one day, one of these tree fell down, hundreds of people will suffer. Yet they survived through numerous typhoons and have in fact stood there for more than 130 years. They have lived longer than any Hongkongers in history.

Image from Google Map
From the photo, it may look small, but the diameter of the tree trunk of some of these trees are wider than 1 metres and estimated to be 5-6 storeys high. Just look at the size of that trunk compared to the size of a human body!

Image from Google Map
Years after years, they stood there, covering the hot summer sun from thousand and thousands of pedestrians, they have served Hong Kong citizens better than any government parties on this land. They truly deserve my deepest respect, and I hope you think the same.

I have always wanted to know their names, and after some researches, I finally confirmed their identities with my wood expert uncle, they are Cinnamomum camphora (樟樹).

Image from LCSD

In Hong Kong, it is the oldest tree species and also very rare. The two largest ones in Hong Kong are AFCD/LK/009 in Lai Chi Wo, near Sha Tau Kok and AFCD/TPK/010 in She Shan Tsuen, Tai Po. Both are 3m in diameters!!!

Wikipedia says that it "is native to Taiwan, southern Japan, southeast China and Indochina", meaning that it could well be a native tree in Hong Kong as well. The trees give out a strong odour which prevent insects from attacking them, which is another reason why they are being over-harvested. The wood expert uncle told me that if we can find some wooden beads with strong insect-repelling smell available for sale in shops, those are fake for sure, but the smell could well came from the real wood of Cinnamomum camphora tree, for the manufacturers put the rare wood in water and then put fake wooden beads to soak up the fragrant.

What a cunning plan! But this plan helped to reduce the chopping of such valuable tree. Next time when you do walk past Haiphong road, try to recall the tree name and give it a strong sniff, see if you can smell the tree! (Make sure there are no smokers next to you though.)

Image from Google
Another species of tree which wows me are those which stood high and pointy along Causeway Road, outside Victoria Park's basketball court, diagonally opposite to Central Library in Causeway Bay. Look at the size of that root compared to the height of passersby. I went right in front of that root some years ago and I felt like I was a rat beneath a giant's foot! There are sharp spikes at the bottom near the root and I think that is to prevent animals from climbing up their trunks.

It was a shame that I never tried to find out their names earlier, now that I know, they are called Ceiba pentandra (吉貝(美洲木棉)). The oldest one there is LCSD E/24, with a diameter (at 1.3m off the ground) of 1.6m!!! WOW!!!!

Similar Tree along Causeway Road (Opposite Central Library)
Image from database.prota
But what is even more astonishing, is how big this tree can actually grow, a quick search through Google Images and I found this one below at the Barro Colorado Natural Monument, Panama.

Image from
Absolutely spectacular!!! Don't you think so? The one in Hong Kong still has millions of years to live on. Let's hope the road will give way by then. You know how bad the city planning is in Hong Kong.

Image from LCSD
If you want to learn more about these old and valuable trees, do visit LCSD's Register of Old and Valuable Trees website and then select any tree species, then the website will show you where you can find them in Hong Kong. Not bad for photography day at all!

I do hope that tree visits will become popular in Hong Kong and so more people will be aware of the importance of woodlands. With more visits, more people will care about these rare trees and so poor AFCD/TPK/010 in She Shan Tsuen, Tai Po will not be burnt and dug for its wood.

Cinnamomum camphora -- (n) [C] (commonly known as Camphor tree, Camphorwood or camphor laurel) is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20–30 metres tall.
repell -- (vb) to force something or someone to move away or stop attacking you
sniff -- (n) [C] a quick breath in through the nose to smell something, or to stop liquid in the nose from coming out
diagonally -- (adv) A diagonal line is straight and sloping, not horizontal or vertical, for example joining two opposite corners of a square or other flat shape with four sides
passerby -- (n) plural passersby someone who is going past a particular place
spike -- (n)[C] a narrow thin shape with a sharp point at one end, or something, especially a piece of metal, with this shape
Ceiba pentandra -- (n)  [C] or Kapok,  is the most used common name for the tree and may also refer to the fibre obtained from its seed pods. The tree is also known as the Java cotton, Java kapok, Silk cotton or ceiba. It is a sacred symbol in Maya mythology.The tree grows to 60–70 m (200–230 ft) tall and has a very substantial trunk up to 3 m (10 ft) in diameter with buttresses.

Cinnamomum camphora @ Wikipedia

Cinnamomum camphora(Camphor tree) @ HKTree


Ceiba pentandra @ Wikipedia

Register of Old and Valuable Tree @ LCSD