A beloved Honolulu tree gets a second life

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When workers chopped down a magnificent tree on the state Capitol grounds recently, many people felt the loss.

But it turns out it was not the end for the revered earpod tree. The tree will be "upcycled" into furniture and even art.

The earpod tree stood for many years near South Beretania and Punchbowl streets. It came down two weeks ago because its roots were disrupting nearby concrete.

Once the massive shade tree was cut down, it was loaded up and hauled off to Re-Use Hawaii, a non-profit construction materials recycling company.

"So instead of it getting destroyed and wasted we took it, turning it into slabs," said Quinn Vittum, co-founder and executive director of Re-Use Hawaii.

But cutting it up into slabs hasn't been so easy for the crews doing the work.

The wood will be used to make furniture, doors, and artwork. But one of the worst enemies of a chainsaw are nails, and there are a lot of them in the tree.

"Yeah, we ran into a few nails and possibly because of some old nails that were nailed into the tree for some Christmas lights." said Eldridge Shay, a salvage specialist at Re-Use Hawaii.

The earpod tree is the national tree of Costa Rica, but a number of them have had to come down here in Honolulu over the years due to safety concerns.

In 2013, a majestic earpod tree on Keeaumoku Street had to be cut down because it had rotted.

Another earpod located at the Foster Botanical Garden also had to be taken down.

But back at Re-Use Hawaii, much of the wood from the tree from the state Capitol is in great shape.

"When you see these trees, cut out, and see the beauty come out of them, it really does come to life." Shay said.

Added Barry Wheeler, a director at the Honolulu Woodturners Club: "The earpod is beautiful wood. Once they cut in on the mill and you see the interior, it's beautiful stuff."

As for the age of the tree, well, that's a bit of a mystery.

Vittum believes it could be over 100 years old.

Once all of the earpod wood is cut into slabs, it'll sit and dry out and then go up for sale.

"It's really special so were glad to preserve it and give it new life. It's fantastic; sometimes trees just get chipped up and wasted." Vittum said.

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