December 11th, 2008

Wall Trees

Posted in Asia Pacific, Environment by Christopher DeWolf

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Wall tree on Bonham Road in Western Mid-Levels

Walls are nothing special but wall trees certainly are. When I first came to Hong Kong I was astounded to see enormous banyan trees growing from what appeared to be the flat surface of a wall. I wasn’t mistaken: they really were growing out of walls. Every so often, a passing bird poops on the wall, and once every thousand times that happens, one of the seeds contained in the feces finds enough nourishment in the wall’s soil and moisture to grow into a full-fledged tree.

Unfortunately, these trees aren’t given the respect they deserve by Hong Kong’s environmental authorities, and most wall saplings are removed before they have a chance to thrive. Earlier this year, a survey revealed that of the 288 saplings growing atop or on the sides of stone walls, 159 had been removed. The government’s tree-removal efforts reached a new peak at the end of this summer, when a giant tree in Stanley fell and crashed a woman passing underneath.

But Hong Kongers have become ever more sensitive to the things that make their city special. Trees are no exception. Over the past few years, attempts to clear away trees for development have been met with howls of protest from conservationists and residents alike. It’s true that in some cases, the trees pose a danger, perched as precariously as they are. But in most situations they add a certain intangible character to Hong Kong’s streets, a sense that even nature is caught up in this city’s rush to build things on top of everything else.


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One comment

  1. Karl Leung says:

    Wall trees are definitely super special! So cool Chris; I love all the textures in these photos :)

    December 13th, 2008 at 10:13 pm