Lahaina’s banyan tree tackles insect infestation

New growth is seen on the 150-year-old banyan tree damaged by the August wildfire in burn zone 11A Dec. 8, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. The area reopened Monday, Dec. 11, to residents and owners with entry passes. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

The scorched banyan tree in the heart of fire-ravaged Lahaina is battling an insect infestation but is still generating new growth.

Steve Nimz, the longtime arborist overseeing the recovery of the gigantic 150-year-old tree said certified arborists have removed about a third of the dead wood infested by the twig borer, a type of beetle, last week.


The section of the tree along Wharf Street, the side of the town square near the former Pioneer Inn, suffered the most damage from the August wildfire, Nimz said.

The aerial roots of the main trunk extend across nearly two acres and have developed into separate trees that sometimes have the ability to live disconnected from the mother tree, he explained.

“We took out a major section of the tree, a good third,” he said, among other treatments to prevent further infestation.

He likened the banyan, which symbolizes hope in the recovering community, to a patient with a weak immune system who is exceedingly vulnerable to disease, or a coma victim on life support.

“We’re trying to build up its immune system but there’s only so much we can do,” he said.

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