No hope for decaying banyan; axe looms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 December, 2010, 12:00am

The crown of a dying, century-old Chinese banyan tree on busy Nathan Road may have to be removed in case it falls, a government arborist says.

The banyan, on the government's list of old and valuable trees, is so ill that it will not recover, Tree Management Office head Lawrence Chau Kam-chiu said after an inspection yesterday.

He said its condition is the result of savage pruning in the 1970s, in which big street-facing branches were lopped off so they did not obstruct traffic. The tree is one of 30 on Park Lane Shopper's Boulevard.

It was found to be infested with banyan tussock moths and suffering from brown root rot disease.

'Its health condition is so serious that it won't recover,' he said. 'Although it poses no urgent threat in terms of falling, we will consider removing it in view of public safety.'

Two other nearby trees were also found to have the disease - which spread via their roots - but they were in much better condition and it might be possible to save them.

The inspection was made after Ken So Kwok-yin, a registered arborist and chief executive of the Conservancy Association, last week warned of the ailing banyan's condition, saying its foliage was wilting to the point that there was almost none left.

He said the tree had died because of mismanagement and could be at risk of falling.

Chau inspected the tree yesterday with officers from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and tested its internal decay using a resistograph. He said they would analyse the results in detail soon, but initial assessments showed that the tree was in very poor health.

He said the department did not know much about the disease, but the problem may have been caused by removing big branches in the 1970s. 'The holes it made were so large that the tree could not recover,' he said.

So agreed savage pruning could be to blame. He asked why the government did not take action in October when the problem was spotted.

'Trees don't recover well from illnesses. They need routine and forward-looking care, which seems to be absent from the government's management,' So said.

Tree-lined street

The dying Chinese banyan tree is one of this many on Nathan Road's Park Lane Shopper's Boulevard: 30