Beloved 150-year-old banyan tree in Lahiania starts to show signs of new growth following the devastating Maui wildfires that killed 97
- The ‘Heartbeat of Lahania town’ was completely singed from the August 8 fire
- Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said the tree’s multiple trunks had begun to show recovery
- Lahaina’s banyan is the oldest living banyan tree in the US and remained standing during the wildfires
Hawaii‘s legendary 150-year-old banyan tree has begun to show signs of life after suffering massive damage due to Maui’s catastrophic wildfires that left 97 dead.
Known as the ‘Heartbeat of Lahania‘, the tree was completely singed from the August 8 fire and initially did not show any signs of returning back to its original state.
Recently, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said the tree’s multiple trunks had begun to show recovery.
Multiple volunteers arranged for water tankers to come by and douse it with hundreds of gallons of water every few hours after the damage. Maui arborists, landscapers, and volunteers formed a hui to care for the tree.
The department confirmed that new leaves are appearing on trunks and branches. The signs of new life indicate positive signs for the tree’s long-term recovery.
Steve Nimz of Tree Solutions Hawaii found ‘found no significant signs of singeing, charring or cracking on the main trunk or most of its more than 40 aerial roots,’ according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
He also found ‘live tissue in the tree’s cambium beneath the bark layer’ and discovered that the soil beneath the tree had not been affected.
The tree was being fed a compost tea, which is a mix of natural ingredients that are being shot into the ground around the circumference of the base. Volunteers have also chopped up small blocks of alfalfa, a legume, and spread it around on the ground to see if the nutrients will help the tree.
Landscape contractor Chris Imonti explained: ‘We did root samples last week and we had very good news as far as new life in the roots. A lot of new roots shooting off.
‘We tested the moisture and arborist Steve Nimz, who is the unofficial leader of the Banyan Tree hui has analyzed all the treatments and he is out today putting sensors on the tree to measure growth rates.’
‘With the compost tea we are seeing good results and as long as we give it enough love, I think it’s going to be fine.’
Lahaina’s banyan, near the town’s historic courthouse building, is known as the oldest living banyan tree in the US.
The tree was imported from India and planted in front of the courthouse in 1873 at just 8 feet tall.
The tree now stands at over 60 feet tall with 47 major trunks, and spans nearly two acres, according to the Lahaina Town website.
The tree is a member of the fig tree family and its aerial roots drape towards the ground, which allow the tree to grow vertically and horizontally.
It is also host to hundreds of mynah birds, which were introduced to Hawaii in 1865 to control army worms.
The banyan tree holds special place in the Lahanian community and acted as a place for parties and proposals before its devastation. Lahania’s banyan has also hosted countless holiday celebrations, hula and craft fairs. In April 20234, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation held a 150th birthday celebration for the tree.
The wildfires resulted in deaths of at least 97 people and the displacement of 11,000.
Maui County officials have alleged in a lawsuit that the ‘intentional and malicious’ mismanagement of power lines by Hawaiian Electric had allowed flames to spark which caused the fire to spread.
The blaze that swept into centuries-old Lahaina destroyed nearly every building in town of 13,000 people.
Around 86 percent of the roughly 2,200 ruined buildings were residential and the value of wrecked property has been estimated at more than $5 billion.
Even where the fire had retreated, authorities warned residents that toxic byproducts may remain, including in drinking water, after the flames released poisonous fumes. That left hundreds unable to return home.
More than 3,000 people registered for federal assistance, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and expected that number to grow.
Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc. will cooperate with the state’s investigation as well as conducting its own, President and CEO Shelee Kimura said.
Kimura said many factors go into a decision to cut power, including the impact on people who rely on specialized medical equipment. She also noted that shutting off power in the fire area would have knocked out water pumps.