Banyan tree showing signs of life following the Maui wildfires

Dec 31, 2023, 10:27 PM | Updated: Jan 1, 2024, 1:10 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Badly burned from the August wildfires on Maui, Lahaina’s historic banyan tree is showing signs of life.

KSL TV’s Tamara Vaifanua was one of the first journalists escorted in to get an up-close look at the 150-year-old landmark. She explains why arborists are so encouraged about its future.

New leaves sprouting from the banyan tree symbolize hope for a community struggling with so much loss. With a lot of love and nurturing, arborists believe it will come back strong and beautiful, which is a testament to Maui’s resilience.

Walking under the massive branches of Lahaina’s banyan tree, you see the damage done by the you see damage from the Aug. 8 wildfires.

“This was all just solid canopy. Thick, dark green leaves. What was green is now brown,” said Tim Griffith, Maui County arborist.

Look closer and green leaves are sprouting everywhere.

“One of the first little leaf sucker growth was this one. Just hoping maybe in two, three months, we would see some sign of life. And it came in three weeks,” Griffith said.

Large monkeypod trees along Front Street took the brunt of the flames and will need to be removed.

“So, the structure across the street was two stories,” Griffith said. “So, it looks like once that was on fire, and made this way, this way, these big trees acted like a blocker.”

Protection from the wind

Fortunately, the wind shielded other sections from major damage.

“This is the natural color of the tree,” Griffith said. “It’s not charred, the wooden benches underneath, mostly survived. It definitely is a miracle that this tree survived.”

These sensors help arborists monitor water moving through the trees, so they know which parts are damaged or still thriving.

“So, its personality is going to be scarred for a while,” Griffith said. “It’s gonna take a lot of physical therapy.”

“With so many happy memories under the magnificent tree, now the focus is on the future,” Griffith said. “This basically is like a phoenix from the ashes.”

He said it’s important to maintain healthy roots, so the tree continues to grow.

“It gives people hope, that if this tree shows signs of life, Lahaina town will once again show signs of life as well,” Griffith said.

With promising results from the banyan tree, arborists and volunteers are also working to save another tree burned in the wildfire — the 250-year-old “ulu” breadfruit tree.

They’re already seeing a lot of recovery in those trees — one sprout at a time.

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Banyan tree showing signs of life following the Maui wildfires