‘Ōhi‘a at Conservancy's Waikamoi Preserve on Maui Accepted for Exceptional Tree Status
Ancient tree estimated to be over 600 years old
PUKULANI, HI | December 21, 2013
A very large, very old ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) tree in the Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve has been accepted for Exceptional Tree status in Maui County.
Earlier this month, more than a dozen middle-school students and parents from Upcountry Maui’s Achievement Academy joined the Conservancy’s botanist Pat Bily to take measurements of this magnificent tree to submit it to Maui County for consideration for Exceptional Tree status.
The students hiked for miles to exercise their math skills by taking measurements of girth, height, and canopy. The hard data was entered on forms and submitted, along with photos of the difficult-to-access tree, to the Maui County Arborist Committee. The Committee confirmed nomination of this specimen for Exceptional Tree Status and the submission awaits approval from the Maui County Council. Members of this committee (which is instrumental in protecting and appreciating historic and culturally significant trees for Maui County) are very confident in the ōhi‘a’s future listing.
Maui College teacher and arborist William Jacintho said that “all members of the Committee voted and agreed to have the tree nominated for an exceptional tree. They were amazed at the photos provided, and the exercise taken to evaluate the tree.”
Kim Skog, chair of the Maui County Arborist Committee, said, “The nomination of this ʻōhiʻa should foster an enhanced awareness of the treasures that Waikamoi and our other native forests hold. Thank you for bringing this fine specimen to our attention!”
Bily said he knew this ʻōhiʻa to be the largest he’d ever encountered in his forest work on Maui, but it was only after Big Island biologist Dr. Patrick Hart, a professor at University of Hawaii-Hilo,published a paper which used methods to age these Hawai'i native giants, that he realized the importance of relating this awe-inspiring tree to others. Dr. Hart’s work on carbon dating fallen trunks of ōhi‘a indicates that a tree girth of two and a half feet may be up to 700 years old. While there are many other factors influencing the true age determination, naturalists in Hawai'i know there are many trees larger than two and a half feet diameter still standing which are likely much older.
Upon observing this particular ōhi‘a proposed for Exceptional Tree Status, Dr. Hart contends the tree could be 600 years old, which is “very, very old for a broadleaf tree.” In his 2010 paper, Hart notes that Hawai'i has some of the oldest flowering trees in the northern hemisphere, a profound statement and another example of Hawaii’s unique ecosystems on the global scale. (Note: redwoods and pines are conifers and are not considered broadleaf/flowering trees.)
The acceptance of this tree coincides with the 125th anniversary of Haleakalā Ranch, which owns the underneath the Conservancy's Waikamoi Preserve. The Conservancy manages the land under a through a conservation easement with the Ranch. As a member of the East Maui Watershed Partnership (formed in 1991), and as a cooperative landowner for some of the most valuable conservation land on East Maui, the Ranch believes this marriage between business and conservation is a successful formula to conserve Hawaii’s natural resources for generations to come.
As part of the 125th anniversary of Haleakalā Ranch Company, the Conservancy took 65 shareholders and families into Waikamoi Preserve this past July. Some had not seen Waikamoi for over 20 years, and were impressed to see and experience the results of the Conservancy's management. Today, hikers can see and hear native birds and smell the rich scent of healthy native ferns and other forest floor plants like maile that now have a chance to thrive.
Waikamoi Preserve and nearby Ranch lands comprise the major headwaters of the East Maui Watershed. Conservation management improvements not only protects native species found only in this part of East Maui, but also maintains a healthy watershed which provides fresh water for Maui’s agriculture and residential needs.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.