‘It still stands’: Lahaina’s banyan tree a symbol of hope — even for President Biden

President Biden was joined by Gov. Josh Green, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen and Hawaii's congressional delegation to deliver remarks on the Lahaina disaster.
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 5:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lahaina’s historic banyan tree has long been an iconic landmark.

But now more than ever, it’s become a symbol of hope.

“The banyan tree that we stand in front of has become an iconic symbol of our heartbreak and our hope,” said U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, during a news conference in Lahaina with President Joe Biden.

“The pain we feel, as you recall happier times under her branches, are undying hope that under the charred and scarred exterior, there is still life and renewal. And while this tree is a symbol, her roots are people, have been scattered far and wide and while we go here and we look and we search, we know that so many of her roots, her people, still wait here to be found,” Tokuda continued.

The sprawling tree itself is 150 years old and said to be the largest banyan in the U.S.

Biden noted its significance in his remarks during his tour of the fire-ravaged area.

“To my left is the banyan tree. Beloved by this community for over 150 years. Here in the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii ... is a sacred spot of exceptional significance,” he said.

“Trees survive for a reason. I believe it’s a powerful a very powerful symbol, what we can and will do to get through this crisis. And for this, for as long as it takes we’re going to be with you, the whole country be with you.,” Biden added.

Sine the fires, arborists have scrambled to salvage the tree and nurse it back to its former glory.

In the days following the devastating fire, they began a process called aeration, in which large holes were dug through the soil to help the tree get air, water and nutrients. The tree itself featured 36 aerial roots and beautiful branches that connected the top to the ground.

For so many, the sturdy roots of the tree represent the resiliency of the people of Lahaina. President Biden reiterated that message in a community address with survivors later in the day.

“It burned but it still stands. One resident called it a ‘diamond in the rough of hope’. Another said, ‘fire cannot reach its roots’. I know it’s a metaphor, but that’s you. That’s who you are. That’s Hawaii. There’s no quit in Hawaii,” Biden said.