Grand old banyan is rotting away because of neglect, says expert

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 December, 2010, 12:00am

A big, gnarled Chinese banyan that has stood beside Nathan Road for more than a century has died from mishandling and could be at risk of falling, a tree expert warned yesterday.

The foliage of the 104-year-old tree began to wilt quickly two weeks ago and only about 3 per cent of the leaves remain.

It is a sign the tree, included on the government's old and valuable tree list, has died, registered arborist Ken So Kwok-yin said.

The 15-metre tree, numbered 10, is one of more than 30 which line Park Lane Shopper's Boulevard.

It was planted in 1906 when the main road was paved, So said. But considering the dryness of the soil under the tree and its greyish bark, he believed it had not received proper care.

'Old trees like this have to be heavily watered, to the extent the soil has to be waterlogged,' he said.

'I've seen government people watering these trees from a slowly running vehicle.

'Each tree got only about 30 seconds of watering, which is totally not enough.'

So, chief executive of the Conservancy Association, believes the tree has brown root rot disease and suspects three other trees on the avenue may also have it.

He called on the government to give them plenty of water as soon as possible.

He also urged that the dying banyan be checked to see if it was at risk of falling.

'To be fair, it isn't only the existing government's fault, but also those stretching back several decades,' he said.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it found the condition of the banyan was deteriorating in October.

Last month, officers discovered an unusual number of leaves.

Officers later found the tree was being attacked by the banyan tussock moth and used pesticide to control the damage.

'The department is closely monitoring the growth of the tree and will trim its tree crown if necessary,' a spokesman said.

He added that measures will be taken to stabilise the tree and prevent it collapsing.

Regarding the three other trees on the avenue, the department said unusual leaf wilting was identified and officers did not rule out an attack of fungus as the cause.