Trees and high-density urban development do not seem to be compatible in Hong Kong. The grave shortage of developable lands and the resultant tightly packed urban fabric have apparently left few plantable niches. A historical review of urban trees provides a baseline to gauge recent changes marked by rampant tree constraints and decimation. The contributions of the different government departments in greening some quarters of the city are assessed through the relevant policies and changing urbanisation patterns. The attitude of private developers and their combined effects on the cityscape are evaluated with reference to the quality and quantity of urban trees. The existing diffuse legislation and controls on tree preservation are difficult to enforce and cannot bring effective protection in private developments. To arrest further damage and to bring about a greener city, collaborative government and private-sector inputs and departure from past attitudes are needed. An assessment of the city matrix for potential planting and preservation suggests many opportunities for improvement. Recommendations on the approaches and methods to implement tree planting programmes are suggested. Copyright © 1993 Published by Elsevier Ltd.