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Hong Kong’s oldest tree

August 27, 2013

A REPORT says that a 400-year-old banyan tree in Hong Kong will be cut down after being hit by a fungal disease brought on when a park development starved its roots of oxygen and nutrients (Aug. 24)

A third of the tree collapsed in a 2007 typhoon, but the enormity of it still amazes passersby as they walk near its towering trunk, 22 metres high with a crown spread of 27 metres.

“No other banyan tree was as old as this one, none was as big as this one, the chair of Hong Kong University geography department Jim Chi-yung said.

As an environmentalist and a lover of nature, I am greatly saddened by this news. It seems that not just Hong Kong, which I have had the great pleasure of visiting, but my own city of Karachi has lost a priceless gift of nature.

Perhaps it is the same feeling that had made Shakespeare to write: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”. I am wondering if it would be possible for some botanist to clone the ill-fated tree by utilising its DNA?

If that can be done, the new tree could be planted in the same Kowloon Park and serve as a good memento of the historical flora for the city’s residents.

George P. Morris had vented his emotions about a tree as follows :

Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.

I plead my case with the following lines:
Botanist, clone that tree!
Don’t let it disappear
without a trace!
Its story has so touched me,
Tears are rolling down my face.