Is the iconic Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, still standing?

Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The Maui wildfire that razed through Lahaina Town and left 99 dead is still revealing the aftermath of its massive destruction. Yet, one glimmer of hope has emerged amidst the devastation: the landmark banyan tree in Lahaina remains charred but still stands. 

The Banyan tree becomes a symbol of Lahaina’s resilience

Planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American Protestant mission in Lahaina, the Banyan tree has become an emblem of the town’s history and culture. With its sprawling branches and robust trunk, the tree has provided shade and solace to generations of residents and tourists alike.

The wildfire that tore through Lahaina seemed almost impossible (here’s the before and after), and many feared the loss of this iconic natural monument. Yet, despite the burns to its 16 trunks which span over an acre, the 150-year-old Banyan tree may survive after all.

According to locals who surveyed the damage, the tree roots remain intact. What was once a mere 8-foot tall tree imported from India that bloomed to become a gathering place and a home to hundreds of Mynah birds now serves as a symbol of life and growth. 

How will the Banyan tree survive? 

The resilience of one of the largest banyan trees in the US (here’s the world’s tallest living tree) will remain tested through the cleanup while nearby burnt cars and the old courthouse are fraught with ash. 

Officials are studying how the wildfire started and engulfed Lahaina, Hawaii, rendering 12,000 homeless while nearly destroying the Banyan tree. Initial reports indicate that drought and high winds from Hurricane Dora contributed to the wildfire. But climate analysts are increasingly attributing the island‘s quadrupling rate of wildfires in recent decades, at least in part, to ongoing human encroachment and development.

Recovery efforts for the tree will include treating scorched areas, providing nourishment to encourage growth, and monitoring its health. A previous restoration, such as the Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s irrigation system in 2000, significantly improved the tree’s overall health.

Primary steps officials can take to help repair the Banyan tree

1Assess the DamageCheck for live tissue; evaluate the extent of damage.
2Clean Wounded AreasRemove charred bark, leaves, and branches with clean tools.
3Prune Damaged BranchesCut back to living tissue for healthy regrowth.
4Install Irrigation SystemUse a drip irrigation system around the root zone for controlled watering.
5Water and Fertilize (with irrigation)Provide balanced water and fertilizer through the irrigation system; monitor soil moisture.
6Apply Tree Wound DressingConsider using a dressing on significant injuries or consult an arborist.
7Provide Support if NecessaryBrace or support large limbs if required.
8Monitor for Infection and PestsWatch for signs of disease or pest infestation.
9Consider Professional HelpConsult with a professional arborist or tree care specialist if severely damaged.
10Allow Time for RecoveryContinue normal care and allow natural healing.
11Avoid Over-PruningPrune only what’s necessary; seek professional guidance if unsure.
12Inspect and Maintain the Irrigation SystemRegularly check for leaks, clogs, or malfunctions and maintain as needed.
13Gradual Weaning from IrrigationReduce irrigation frequency and quantity as the tree recovers.

Photos of Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui, before the wildfire

Is the iconic Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, still standing?
Is the iconic Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, still standing?
Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

What exactly is a Banyan tree, and where did it come from?

The Banyan tree, significant in various cultures, is a fig tree native to the Indian subcontinent. It’s known for its aerial roots and vast canopy, providing shade and shelter. Part of the Ficus genus, the Banyan tree, has unique relationships with certain wasps that help pollination. Furthermore, the tree’s wide branches and symbolic importance make it intriguing in nature and culture.

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