Few trees are as spectacular as the Lahaina Banyan tree! If you are headed to the island of Maui, please visit this unbelievably complex natural wonder at the corner of Front Street and Canal Street!
During the early to mid 1800s Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The town was a popular place for ships to anchor, so that supplies could be replenished. Needless to say, sailors enjoyed getting off the ships after months at sea. Once on land, they would go out for drinks and meet the local ladies. The arrival of missionaries put an end to Lahaina’s wild side!
I did get a taste of the “wild side” though! I had patiently waited for a parking space and when I pulled in, some not-so-friendly local couple had a major tantrum right there! They pulled up behind me, and gave me the middle finger!! Thanks a lot! It was my spot, and I never cut people off in any driving situation. Then they pulled around the front, rolled down the window and yelled at me at the top of their lungs! And it was not a friendly Aloha Greeting! That definitely put a damper on our afternoon.
In 1873, Sheriff William Owen Smith planted a 8 foot (2.4 m) tall Indian Banyan tree to memorialize the 50th anniversary of the first American Protestant Mission in Lahaina. The tree was a gift from missionaries in India. It since has grown to over 60 feet tall and covers just about 0.66 acres (0.27 ha), an entire city block.
Strolling around beneath this massive canopy of rustling leaves, dangling arial roots and gnarly branches and tree trunks always makes me pause, and feel very small!
Unfortunately, this magnificent natural monument has been stressed from too much foot traffic, a serious draught and all the carved graffiti in the tree trunks. Sprinklers have been installed to help with the water shortage, but hopefully humans can step more gently and resist carving their initials into the tree. It would be a shame to see this tree die!
Hopefully you’re running on “island time” by now! Go get yourself an ice cream cone across the street, at the local ice cream store and take it to the Banyan Tree Park. Relax in the shade on one of the many benches and enjoy your treat, people watching, and cute little zebra doves looking for a morsel to eat. That’s what I call a good time!
The Banyan tree got its name from the Portuguese people. In the Gujarati language, “Banias” means grocer or merchant. The Portugese associated these trees with the Indian merchants, who were selling their wares under these trees.
One last thought! Did you know that the Banyan tree is related to the fig tree and that new trunks grow when the arial roots reach the ground and begin to root. How cool is that!