Ancient Green Treasures in Hainan

By / / Updated: 18:17,19-March-2023

Out of all things in the natural world, trees have witnessed and recorded the largest number of changes. From seasons of wind and rain, sunshine and snow, they are carriers of history. Urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, these green antiques are some of our world's most precious treasures. Take a moment and join with us in exploring and learning about Hainan's  ancient trees and the history hidden beneath their leafy green canopies.

With age the most important standard to define what makes one of the giants of the forest an "ancient treasure",  Hainan's oldest tree is over 2,600 years old. Growing deep within the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest, this tree—with a height of more than 30 meters—is called a "divine tree" and "King of trees" by locals. In 2017, the Chinese Society of Forestry listed it as one of the most beautiful trees in China.


Another over 2,000-year-old tree on the island is located in Danzhou's Dacheng Town. An upas tree (also known as "poison arrow tree"), the milky latex-like sap  is extremely poisonous. A human or animal wounded by a weapon coated in its sap is likely to die from symptoms such as heart paralysis and blocked blood vessels. Aware of its awesome powers and historical nature, local, villagers treat it as a God and often pray beneath the tree for peace, health, and good weather.


Located in Dongfang’s Longwo Village, a tamarind tree is also noticeable. It is over 1,500 years old and 24.8 meters high with strong branches and luxuriant foliage.  Showing the majesty of an elder, the furrowed bark is wrinkled and twisted. Surrounded by houses, it has accompanied local people for generations. Look carefully to see some tamarind fruits hiding in the green leaves. People here are used to sitting and chatting under the tree in their spare time and you can hear their laughter even from far away.

In addition to their age, some of Hainan's trees stand out for features such as their height, shape, coverage, and flowers. A 49 meter tall Homalium hainanense Gagnep in the Bawangling area of the National Rainforest Park is recognized as the tallest tree in Hainan. This kind of tree is extremely tenacious and full of vitality. After being cut down, many seedlings will germinate from the stump and between three and six of these can grow into trees. Therefore, people in Hainan call it the Mother Tree. Since it is good strong wood, Li people often plant several of these trees after giving birth to a daughter and cut them down for her dowry when she gets married.


An ancient banyan tree on Qiongzhong's Baihualing Ridge stands out for its unique appearance. Formed from two trees tangled together, it stands over 30 meters high and is the home to a microcosmic ecosystem made up of 56 different kinds. Meanwhile, a bodhi tree growing out of its canopy attracts many animals in search of food and shelter to visit its luxuriant leaves and branches. On account of the many twisting roots, as thick as an adult's forearm, which emerge from midair to plunge deep into the soil it is often referred to as the "Harp Tree".


The banyan in Dongfang’s Tianan Village is quite outstanding and, most likely, has the largest canopy of any tree on the island. Like all banyan, it is a tangle of branches, trunks, and roots of differing ages. There are at least three older trees knotted into one big tree connected over a 10 meter gap with three younger trees. Their overlapping leafy crowns open up like a large umbrella and their strong roots look as if a flock of dragons had laid down for a rest among the tall trunks and luxuriant foliage. Covering an area of more than 1,800m², the oldest of the trunks is over 300 years old.


One of the best preserved groups of powder-puff trees in China is found in Danzhou in the 1,300 year old Qili Village. The oldest tree in the grove has been dated to being about 800 years old. This kind of tree is famous for its sweet-smelling night-blooming flowers. As a kind of traditional flower in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it was a popular topic among both literati and writers. As a way of implying the passage of time, the famous ancient poet Bai Juyi once mentioned it in a poem.


Ancient trees are the treasures of the forest, and living specimens for the study of plants, geography, hydrology, climate, ecology and culture. It is our common responsibility to protect Hainan's ancient and famous trees.



Having questions about living or working in Hainan? Leave it below. 

Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

By continuing to browser our site and use the services you agree to our use of cookies, Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

I agree