Trees, as welcome and necessary components of Nature and functional landscape elements in cities, provide a worth-while theme for applied ecological study. Of the different approaches, the micro-scale evaluations of tree—habitat interactions can throw light on practical tree management. The roadside trees in Hong Kong, generally dwelling in a stressful physical and physiological environment, have been surveyed in detail in the field with regard to species composition, tree structure, tree defects, and habitat characteristics. Despite a diversified floristic composition, the street-tree population is dominated by a small number of common species, of which 12 have been chosen for in-depth evaluations. The recent emphasis on exotic and fast-growing species with limited final dimensions will modify the treescape in the long run. Many existing large specimens have been sacrificed to urban redevelopments. The differential performance of different species with reference to the occurrence of defects has been interpreted. Almost all the trees are inflicted by some structural or physiological problems, and large trees are practically collectors of diverse maladies. The urban tree habitats of Hong Kong are characterized by gravely cramped and stressful conditions from the soil-level upwards and especially as regards headroom. Tree-habitat correlations and associations suggest a need to plant rapid-growing, tall but narrow-canopied species that are able to resist a maximum proportion of the inevitable tree defects and diseases. The shortage of good-quality habitats with space for tree-growth, and the accompanying unfavourable ecological niches, are crucial factors for tree existence. The prospects of street trees in the long-term urban planning and upgrading for environmental quality, with special reference to the provision and preservation of proper habitats, are elaborated, with Hong Kong as a practical example. Copyright © 1992 Foundation for Environmental Conservation.