June 18, 2024

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A 150-year-old banyan tree is becoming a symbol of hope as it sprouts new leaves after enduring some of the wildfires that have swept across the Hawaiian island of Maui for weeks.

About the tree: The 60-foot Ficus benghalensis was a gift from India and was planted in April 1873 to commemorate the first Protestant mission in Lahaina. Covering a quarter of a mile in circumference and shading almost two-thirds of an acre, it served as a gathering spot for community events prior to the recent wildfires.

Why this matters: The banyan tree was severely damaged due to the wildfires, which claimed at least 97 lives in all of Maui. However, with green shoots and leaves recently emerging, it has become a beacon of hope for the local community, representing resilience and inspiring renewal after the destruction.

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How people are helping: The tree is the largest of its kind in the U.S., according to the Lahaina Restoration Foundation. Arborists, landscapers and volunteers are all involved in efforts to restore its health, including aerating the surrounding ground to improve drainage and giving the tree regular servings of nutritious “compost tea.”

Whether the tree makes a full recovery is yet to be seen, with arborists stressing the importance of close monitoring and care tailoring to ensure its survival. A campaign on GoFundMe is currently raising funds to help with the tree’s restoration.


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