While they might be easy to overlook as just another aspect of Hong Kong’s landscape, the old, spidery trees that grace walls and buildings throughout the city carry years of history. Many of them grew during the 19th and early 20th century, when the Hong Kong government began constructing stone masonry retaining walls to prevent landslides. The trees sprouted in open joints between the stones, sometimes even taking over entire walls, resulting in the iconic wall along Forbes Street in Kennedy Town, for instance.
Although the trees carry cultural significance — many of them are over a century old — and improve the surrounding environment, there are safety considerations, too. Sometimes the trees can compromise the integrity of the wall, or contract decay or diseases. The Hong Kong government made the decision to cut down two 80-year-old banyans along Bonham Road in 2018 for such reasons, sparking discord from residents and arborists alike.