Urban Forestry: Exceptional Trees of Hawai`i
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The legacy of Hawaii's exceptional trees is rooted in the epic period of Polynesian migration to these islands that began over a thousand years ago. The pattern of transporting useful plants to ensure a more comfortable and productive life in the new land was repeated more extensively a few centuries later when waves of new immigrants from both East and West began arriving in Hawaii.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century a Spaniard, Don Francisco de Paula Marin, landed in Honolulu from Mexico to become a gardener and vineyard keeper. Among the many food plants he introduced now commonly found in island markets as well as naturalized in fields and along roadsides, were new fruit trees.

At mid-century interest in the importation of plants was given great impetus by Hawaii's burgeoning role as a trans-pacific trade center. Supported by local businessmen. King Kamehameha III set up an experimental plant import garden and, with the help of the royal physician and botanist. Dr. William Hillebrand, began a thoughtful introduction of trees with economic potential from the world's tropics, trees that would be useful for food, ship building, and general construction in the rapidly growing village of Honolulu.

Often during this period, voyagers arriving from distant ports brought seeds for new trees with them in shipments such as the one containing fruits and medicinal plants from the Orient accompanying the first Chinese immigrants to Hawaii in 1852. The introduction of new trees continued throughout the century. Many other individuals, businessmen, sea-captains, and housewives determined to have bountiful orchards-obtained new tree seeds and seedlings for Hawaii's gardens.

Shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century, a far more extensive program of plant importation was undertaken by the Hawaii Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) under the leadership of a noted botanist, Harold L. Lyon. The two-fold goal was to ensure the continued availability of water to Hawaii's sugar industry and to provide economically viable tree crops. This was accomplished by reforesting lowland and midland marginal lands important for watershed and soil conservation. H.S.P.A. imports totalled nearly 10,000 species which were distributed to arborists throughout Hawaii. Three of the central experimental planting stations used for the project are well-known in Hawaii today as Foster Botanic Garden in downtown Honolulu, Lyon Arboretum in Manoa Valley, and Wahiawa Botanic Garden in central Oahu. The massive plantings were augmented by other individuals-territorial foresters and private citizens-who introduced additional trees with economic potential. The new trees flourished in Hawaii's rich volcanic soil. Today, many formerly barren parts of the islands are cloaked in green.

In 1974 the Mokihana Club, a small but dedicated and determined citizens' group on the island of Kauai, rallied community support to prevent destruction of an exceptionally large and beautiful banyan tree on the island. From this effort grew the realization that legislation was needed to protect similar trees throughout the state. This was obtained in 1975 when the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 105 (Chapter 58, Hawaii Revised Statutes) mandating each County to establish a County Arborist Advisory Committee composed of five knowledgeable citizens appointed by the Mayors of each County. Citizens on the garden island of Kauai already had taken the lead by passing a protective ordinance on December 27, 1974. The Outdoor Circle was prominent among citizens' groups urging support of the legislation.

To date twelve exceptional trees have been protected by ordinance on the island of Kauai; one hundred and two are protected by Oahu's 1978 ordinance. Tree selections for designation as 'exceptional' are based on nominations pre-sented by citizens or citizens' groups to the County Arborist Advisory Committees. Trees are evaluated on the basis of age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality, endemic status, or historic and cultural significance.

The exceptional trees in this book represent a vital and majestic part of Hawaii's heritage. They are a living legacy from those early generations of pioneer men and women who settled Hawaii, a legacy to be appreciated by present generations and lovingly conserved for future generations.

Paul R. Weissich, Director
Honolulu Botanica Gardens (1982)

Text cited with Permssion by The Outdoor Circle from Majesty: Exceptional Trees of Hawaii (1982).

In partnership with the Outdoor Circle. Funding provided by the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program,
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife and USDA Forest Service
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