Forest giants: Hawaii Big Tree Competition underway

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The Big Island is home to some big trees, according to results from a national competition, and now island residents can try and pad the list even more.

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The Big Island is home to some big trees, according to results from a national competition, and now island residents can try and pad the list even more.

The annual Hawaii Big Tree Competition, sponsored by American Forests and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, is inviting people to nominate trees they think might be the largest in the state.

There are 21 eligible Hawaiian species categories. Eight of those categories are occupied, all by trees on Hawaii Island.

Reigning winners include a sprawling 40-foot wiliwili in Waikoloa Dry Forest, a 73-foot manele in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and four trees in Pu‘u wa‘awa‘a Forest Reserve: a 32-foot kolea lau nui, a mamane with a 165-inch circumference, an olopua with a more than 42-foot crown spread and a papalakepau with a more than 52-inch circumference.

Contest officials attribute Hawaii Island’s success to its high level of community involvement in the contest — among other factors.

“Of course (the Big Island) is bigger and there’s more land to work with,” said Malia Nanbara, statewide service forester for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “The other thing is, its forests are less developed than the other islands so there are still some existing trees there that are quite large.”

Remaining categories are vacant, including two which recently opened after their championed trees — the only ones from neighboring islands — fell. Those were an ‘a‘ali‘i (hopbush) tree on Maui and a coconut tree on Oahu, which also had been crowned the National Ultimate Big Tree winner through an online voting competition.

Nominations are accepted through Feb. 1. To replace a current champion, a nominated tree must collect more total points, which are accrued through three factors: trunk circumference in inches, height in feet and one-fourth average crown spread in feet. Folks are welcome to measure trees themselves, Nanbara said, but in March, all nominated trees will be measured or verified regardless.

In the spring, the American Forests will release a register with official champions, she said.

To nominate a tree, contact Big Tree Coordinator Krista Lizardi at 587-0164 or Krista.M.Lizardi@hawaii.gov. Folks are invited to include measurements and the tree’s specific location with GPS coordinates.

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For more information about the Hawaii program or to see a full list of species categories and current winners, visit tinyurl.com/BigTreeContest. More information about the national program can be found at tinyurl.com/NationalTreeProgram.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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