Standing the test of time

A two-hour San Po Kong Community Trees Walk was a journey that uncovered the stories of trees, revealed traces of change in the community and landscape planning of the city

Images: Ken So & ITO

Last December, In Time Of organized “In Time of Trees: Community Trees Walk” and invited Ken So, Chief Executive of the Conservancy Association, to give us a tour in San Po Kong. As an arboriculturist himself, Ken showed us a new perspective to see the changes of the city through studying trees. From Prince Road East to the parks in Yan Oi Street, the two-hour walk allowed us to fully reconnect with nature.

With an ideal environment, trees enjoy the longest life span among other creatures. Other than those newly planted, most of the trees that we see in the city all have stood the test of time – some over a decade, and some over a century. Ken explained the rationale behind the types of trees planted are based on the understanding, preferences, and supplies of the trees in different period. Therefore, we could tell when a tree was being planted and what function it serves in the community by observing its type and size.

It’s worth noting that big trees are becoming rare in our city. What’s been replaced with are trees of smaller size and brighter colours. In recent years, there has been an increase in tree diversity. One of the reasons is to help combat climate change.


Participants renewed their thoughts about trees after the tour
Ken explained the characteristics of Lance-leaved Sterculia

One of the trees Ken showed was Chinese Banyan, the most well-known native fig species in Hong Kong. Record about Chinese Banyan was made as early as in the Qing dynasty, and it was the most planted in the city since the founding of Hong Kong. Chinese Banyan is not a popular tree to be planted in recent years since its fast-growing nature and it takes up a lot of space. Lance-leave Sterculia is commonly found in Hong Kong nowadays. This native evergreen tree is easily identifiable where both ends of the leafstalk are flattened, with a shape resembling a dumbbell.

Exotic species such as the Paperbark tree which originated from Australia is common in Hong Kong. Try to crush the leaf and a fresh scent of camphor will exude. As the climate of Hong Kong is similar to that of Australia, the Paperbark tree has found no difficulties growing in Hong Kong. At first, they were grown in the reservoirs and two sides of the roads, and later in the parks.

We need trees to build a greener city. In order to live in harmony with nature, thereby let’s get to know the trees in our surroundings.

Fruit of Chinese Banyan tree
White flower of Paperbark tree
Fruit of Lance-leaved Sterculia
The dumbbell-shaped leafstalk of Lance-leaved Sterculia