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  • Apr 24, 2014
  • Updated: 8:06am

Single group of tree experts needed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 4:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 4:49am

It was bad and sad news that a giant Chinese banyan tree collapsed in Hong Kong Park ("Warning tree was dangerous ignored", December 19).

It is a shocking shame if officials ignored arboreal experts' advice of its dangerous condition. We should be able to expect that trees within our principal parks receive continual expert care and attention. I find it scandalous that Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park have now lost magnificent mature ficus microcarpa trees. This latest tree was managed by the Architectural Services Department. Why, when this was within the bounds of Hong Kong Park?

This exposes a major management problem for our trees, as they are not handled by one team of experts, but by various departments whose approach to trees is highly questionable. Older banyan trees are characterised by their aerial prop roots, which is nature's way that these trees protect their structural stability during storms when wind and rain exert loading stresses on the main branches.

Departments routinely cut or tie these aerial roots to stop them reaching the ground, whereas they should be encouraging such growth to enhance the well-being of the tree and ensure public safety.

In banyans many aerial roots enmesh the main trunk thereby applying considerable strangulation pressure. This commonly kills the original tree, which then rots and hollows. However the new roots still provide structural integrity, and the tree continues to grow and thrive.

Our ignorant officials on seeing rot in the original trunk immediately assess that the tree is doomed and so demolish "everything". As a sad example a magnificent mature banyan that gave wonderful shade to the Kennedy Street sitting-out area in Wan Chai was completely removed, because the main trunk had rotted and hollowed.

What a shame, as the extensive aerial prop root system of this "old and valuable tree" had already established solid separate trunks that were healthy, thriving and fully self supporting. I get a sense that our government departments prefer to demolish trees rather than accept the responsibility of caring for them.

Our banyan trees are an evocative and important feature of our city. They require more serious attention from our civil servants, and one group of experts needs to be assigned to manage all our trees.

Our works departments much prefer concrete and asphalt, and we are poor when compared to Singapore and other Asian cities in the use of vegetation to enhance city living.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels


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