The Oldest Tree of Kota Kinabalu

You had seen it, probably hundreds times, if you live in Kota Kinabalu (KK). The oldest tree of KK has been standing next to one of our busiest roads for over 80 years, but most motorists don’t even notice it. Guess what? This heritage tree is valued at RM600,000 (about USD$181,000)!


Now you want to see it right? 🙂 KK City Hall (DBKK) told me that there are a few of them near the traffic light next to Wisma MUIS (yellow building at the right of the photo above).

If you still can’t tell the exact trees from my photos above, you may use the location map below:


View My Sabah Map in a larger map

These old trees are over 20 Meters tall and have broad umbrella-shaped canopy. They exist since the British colony time, the time when Sabah is known as North Borneo. When British government was ruling our state, they planted a lot of trees near building and field, so their people can enjoy some shade in warm and wet tropical climate.


However, less than 100 trees of colony age stands until today around KK, most of them are over 60 years old, and these two are over 80 years old, being the oldest in Sabah capital.


The trees have short bole with heavy side-branches. Some epiphytes such as Bird’s Nest Ferns find the branches a nice habitat. Who knows you might find orchid on it.


Other famous KK city tour destinations such as Sabah State Mosque and Sabah Museum are less than 500 Meters from these trees. The funny thing is – no tourist visits the oldest heritage trees. I bet most Sabah travel agents don’t know about it. Do you see the man (at red arrow) standing next to the tree? Just to let you know how tall and big this tree is.


The second tree nearest to the traffic light is about the same height too.


FYI, they are Rain Tree or Monkey Pod (known as “Hujan-Hujan” in Malay language, Species: Samanea saman), which is native to northern South America and a common ornamental and shade tree for parks & big gardens. Typically Rain Tree can reach 15 to 25 Meters (50 Meters in rare case) in height with a broad crown of 30 Meters in diameter. Rain Tree can live an average of 80-100 years. Now they are over 80 years old, so you better check them out soon, before they are gone within 20 years.


The British tourists would be excited to see this “legacy” left by their ancestors in Sabah. The bark of Rain Tree is rough and fissured in long plates or corky ridges, like the wrinkled face of an old man.


On the tree trunk, you will find a metal tag that reads, (translated) “This tree is gazetted as the heritage tree under the small law of Kota Kinabalu City Hall. Any planned action on this tree must be reported to:
Director, Landscape Department of KK City Hall,
7th Floor, Center Point Building, No.1 Bandaran Road, 88675 Kota Kinabalu.
Tel: 088-244000 Fax: 088-243501″
The ID of these two tree are JTAR-4002/2009 and JTAR-4003/2009, and you can call KK City Hall to find out more.



There is another tall Rain Tree (ID No.: JTAR-4005/2009) next to the traffic light. It is smaller so I’m not sure if it’s also the oldest.

There are hundred of heritage trees in KK get this little golden tag that exempts them from being cut down. If you look at the trees, especially the big and old ones, around Gaya Street, Tanjung Aru, KK roadside, Merdeka Field (Padang Merdeka), etc., you will see many trees are tagged as heritage trees. A tree needs to meet one of the following requirements to become a heritage tree:
1) Older than 25 years
2) Planted by celebrity
3) Diameter exceeds 60 CM
4) Taller than 5 Meters
5) Grow in historical site


Besides supplying oxygen and purifying the air, trees also provide shade for us. You will really appreciate that shade during hot day.


When the trees flower, our city will look like having a blossoming cherry season.

I would like to credit Chung Yi Ni (钟忆妮), the reporter from See Hua Newspaper (诗华日报) who wrote the article titled “The Oldest Tree of Kota Kinabalu” (亚庇最老的树) that was published on newspaper on 12 Jun 2011. The article is so well-written that she won an award. And that’s how I learn about these trees and share this online.

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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