New signs of life for the iconic Lahaina Banyan tree; Arborist says tree shows improvement

In the early hours of the wildfire devastation of Lahaina, if you talked with the residents, you could see the raw emotion and tears filling their eyes when peo
Published: Sep. 10, 2023 at 10:49 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 10, 2023 at 11:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the early hours of the wildfire devastation of Lahaina, if you talked with the residents, you could see the raw emotion and tears filling their eyes when people spoke of the Old Banyan Tree.

From an emotional, cultural, and historical perspective, it’s been a part of everyone’s lives; everyone knows, has played under, kissed under, sat under, or passed by the big banyan tree of Lahaina.

And like Lahaina’s people, the tree has suffered lots of damage — but it is still there, and with the help of many, it’s getting stronger.

“Well, I think people know that it was planted 150 years ago, and it covers about an acre or a little bit over an acre. It’s a historic tree. Of course, it’s a gathering place for a lot of people. It has a lot of history. It’s it is a center almost in the heart of Lahaina. And it’s a very important tree for the Lahaina,” Steve Nims said.

Steve Nims is a consulting arborist out of Honolulu who has a company called Tree Solutions and Environmental Consulting Services.

“I’ve been working on the tree since 1980. consulting with it when they put in different walkways, I’m part of the national... which was at that time called the National Arborist Association. And we put a plaque on that tree in 1982. Honoring it as a major tree for the National Arborist Association,” Nims said.

“It’s the same tree as a Ficus Benghalensis. That’s the same species as we have at the International Marketplace. And at the Moana Hotel. And also in Kapi’olani Park, there are many of them.”

A couple of days after the Aug. 8 fire, Steve was called by Prometheus Construction on Maui to come and take a look at the tree.

Escorted by Maui workers and residents, he went up in an aerial bucket to get a firsthand look from the tops of the tree.

“I checked the top of the tree, I checked all the trunks, there’s one major trunk, and there’s actually 35 Aerial routes. So when we got there, we saw that one; I did not see any major charring or burns on the tree. The benches, all underneath the banyan tree. If you’re familiar with it, 90% of them were still intact, not burned. So, seeing that, I’m seeing that there wasn’t a lot of heat underneath the tree. And it was mostly a burn that went over the top of the tree.”

Steve checked all of the area roots in the trunk by cutting into the tree slightly.

Usually, when you do that, sap oozes out of the cut. He saw there was live tissue but not much sap. It was like seeing a medical patient with an injury who was severely in need of blood.

Construction teams brought thousands of gallons of water for the first couple of days. Then, they brought air space guns on a compressor to break and loosen the soil so moisture could get in.

So with that, we put on probably about 1200 gallons of compost tea, and there’ll be additional treatments as we go over the months. And after we get that, we’re going to put a layer of mulch over the top of that to blanket it.

Already, they are starting to see improvements, but like Lahaina and its people, there is no quick solution.

It will need a lot of help from many people and patience to grow stronger.

So for the land, the trees, the ‘aina, and its Kanaka — its people, the work continues.