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Lahaina’s 150-year-old banyan tree has sprouted green leaves

The 150-year-old banyan tree in Lahaina is showing signs of life more than a month after its leaves were singed by fire.

Clusters of green leaves have since grown from the iconic tree’s branches, as well as on the ground beneath it at Lahaina’s courthouse square.

These signs of hope began to spring at the end of August, according to the group working to save the tree.

County arborist Timothy Griffith noted at least a dozen new shoots on both the aerial root props and main limbs anywhere from six to 20 feet up in the tree.

He called it a welcome sight and hopes it is the start of more to come.

Cliff Tillotson of Prometheus Construction, who had childhood memories of the tree, contacted arborist Steve Nimz of Tree Solutions Hawaii.

After a blessing by Kumu Kapono Kamaunu, Nimz inspected the tree and found no significant signs of singeing, charring or cracking on the main trunk or most of its more than 40 aerial roots.

He also found that there was still live tissue in the tree’s cambium beneath the bark layer, and that the soil beneath the tree did not appear burned.

At the time, he said there was still hope, but that it would take patience and time to see if the tree would respond to efforts to save it.

Days after the fire, volunteers arranged for water tankers from Goodfellow to start a regular watering program for the banyan tree.

A newly formed hui, including Maui arborists, landscapers, and dozens of volunteers are working around the clock to revive the tree. The ground around the tree has been aerated to improve drainage, and is getting regular servings of nutrient-rich “compost tea.”

They say the tree seems to be responding and that there have been signs of new roots shooting from root samples.

The banyan tree, planted as a sapling in 1937, has been designated an “Exceptional Banyan Tree” and is beloved by many who consider it the heart of the community.

The Lahaina Restoration Foundation says it was planted to honor the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lahaina, started at the request of Queen Keopuolani.

Its survival is seen as a symbol of hope.

The group has expanded its efforts to watering and saving historic breadfruit, or ulu trees and a few other exceptional survivor trees in the area.

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