Mon, 09/22/2014 - 19:20

Taken from the Aberdeen Praya Road with the floating restaurant in the background.

Date picture taken
Shows place(s)


Barren Hills:
Why are the hills in Hong Kong and Kowloon so barren and void of tall vegetation? One would think that with plentiful sunlight and rainfall, near tropical temperatures, they should be covered with century-old trees. The northern slope of Lion Rock tend to have more greenery, when it has less amount of sunlight.
Just curious.

That's an easy one: because the indigenous inhabitants of this area chopped down all of the original trees.

You've noted one of the striking features of the HK landscape. Although these days we all complain about the pollution and urbanization, HK's actually a much greener place than it used to be, at least in terms of trees. Lots of trees were planted during the colonial period, and more have grown back naturally, so now large parts of HK's countryside are again forested, albeit not in 'old growth'.

I've often wondered too why the trees tend to come back faster on the northerly slopes here; this is noticeable all over the SAR. Can anybody with some botany knowledge help us out?

Hi there,

I have a faint impression from my secondary school Geography lessons decades ago that the Victoria Harbour had been a weathered/eroded volcanic intrusion. The exposed crust are basically volcanic rocks....... and the top soil had been thin in many places. This might be one of the reasons that not all slopes have big and old trees as the top soil might not be able to support them.


Hi there,

After all these developments in the past 15 years or so in Apleichau, the most densely populated island on the surface of the Earth so far, I don't think there is much slopes for trees nowadays. If you zoom in through Google Earch you should be able to see there are actually not too many trees around. Many of the slopes have bushes but that's it. The visible and big enough trees had been planted there or by Natural Selection in the past 30 ears or so, I think.


The difference is really obvious on the line of hills along the back of Kowloon. Walk up from Sha Tin on the north side and it's all leafy & shady, then crest the hill to to reach the south side and it's suddenly bare.

The southern hillside also changes through the year. If you look at it from Hong Kong island (when you can see that far through the smog) it looks look green & lush during summer, but by the end of the winter they look quite brown.

I've always assumed it's a combination of thin soil and sunlight. The South side gets lots of sun and is baked dry, whereas the North side stays damp enough to support larger plants and trees.


In the mid 1950s most of the hills on the island were covered with just ankle high short grass and very low scrub.  We used to roam freely all over Pottinger Peak and the area between the Cape Collinson road and Big Wave Bay and even up Mt Parker.  The Dairy Farm was experimenting with the planting of thousands of clumps of grass on the Western slopes of the Dragon's Back just above the road leading to Cape D'Aguilar and Shek O.  I was told that this was to provide feed for the dairy herd.  In 1981 I returned to HK for a holiday and was amazed at the growth of much taller and largely impenetrable scrub, covering all these hills.  later, I wrote to the Professor of Botany at the HK University and he suggested that much of the taller vegetation had been chopped down for fuel during 1941/5, and that there was also a policy to create a richer ground cover that would favour a more bio-diversifed animal, bird and insect life.  In the mid 1950s fires on the hills were not uncommon and it was said that this was because the farmers were burning off the low vegetation in order to acquire potash for their fields.  Now, there are virtually no farms on the Island so there is no need for 'free' fertiliser and I doubt whether the Dairy Farm even has a herd of cows.  The denser vegetation also possibly gives more stability to the slopes.  In recent years I have enjoyed walking the excellent paths that have been developed over many of the Island's hills but I often wish that I could easily leave them and roam freely over the 'barren hills' of my youth!