By Marti Townsend, Executive Director
Two aggressive pests threaten the future of Banyan trees in Hawai‘i. The Lobate Lac Scale, known as the “vampire bug” sucks the life out of Chinese Banyans, native Hibiscus, Koa, and about 300 other tree and plant species. So far this scale is found only on Oahu. The Stem Gall Wasp burrows into branches at the base of each stem making it impossible for Chinese banyans to grow new leaves; it has already invaded O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i Island.
In less than two years, these two aggressive bugs have forced the removal of dozens of banyan trees for safety reasons. Iconic banyan trees have been removed due to these pests at Moanalua Gardens, Thomas Square Park, Kapiolani Park, Washington Place, along the Ala Wai, and the International Marketplace. Chinese banyans at the National Cemetery, UH-Manoa, the Catholic Cemetery on King Street, and Ala Moana Park are infected and undergoing treatment. Despite considerable effort, arborists have yet to find effective treatments for the pests, and in some cases the treatment can be as bad as the disease.
While experts continue the search for a cure, The Outdoor Circle is working hard to plant new trees to replace the those being lost to these infestations. It is important for City and State officials, as well as private land-owners to undertake tree-planting with a determination equal to the feracity of these tree-killing bugs.
“We can’t just plant any kind of tree where these Exceptional and majestic trees once grew,” said TOC President Alexandra Avery. “We need to have the vision and commitment to plant trees now that have the same potential for greatness as the iconic trees we are now losing. This is the only way to ensure there are still Exceptional Trees in the ground for the future generations of Hawai‘i.”
TOC is pleased to report that Washington Place is already preparing to plant trees to replace the 75-year-old Chinese Banyan lost there. Replacement tree plantings and tree relocations are currently being planned for Kapiolani Park and the International Marketplace, while planting plans are being developed for Thomas Square and Ala Moana Park.
Oahu’s banyan trees under attack, many dying by Denby Fawcett, Civil Beat
Tree pest leads to removal of Waikiki Banyan Trees, KITV News
You can help!
Counter the loss of iconic and Exceptional trees on Oahu and throughout the Hawaiian Islands by becoming a member and supporting The Outdoor Circle’s “Exceptional Tree Initiative.” Click here to make a secure, online donation now. We are committed to planting as many trees with the potential to become truly “Exceptional Trees” as possible.
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.