Sunday | August 02, 2015
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An Arboreal Challenge

You can’t get your arms around that tree nor guess how tall it is — but could it be large enough to be a National Champion Big Tree?

If you think so, pull out your measuring tape, camera and map to nominate one of Hawaii’s 21 native species eligible for the National Register of Big Trees, a program run by a forest preservation group.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife is accepting nominations for the program through Feb. 1. Nominations must include tree measurements and directions to, or geographic coordinates of, the tree. Photos are also suggested.

“It’s mostly about education to promote the native trees and their importance and uniqueness,” said Sheri Mann, DOFAW forestry manager. “And, you have a chance to have your name associated with a photograph.”

Candidates for the register are koa; lama; wiliwili; ohia ha; Malaysian apple; white hibiscus; hibiscus; red Kauai hibiscus; Hawaiian holly; kolea lau nui; Hawaiian olive; papala kepau; Hawaiian sumac; soapberry; mamane; Oahu pricklyash; paper mulberry; coconut; sea hibiscus; soapberry wingleaf and hopbush, according to the state.

State and public forest reserves or other land tracts are good areas to find large trees, Mann said. People need to obtain private landowners’ permission before heading out onto private land.

“Most native trees are out in the wild forests,” she said. “You can intuitively assume that the biggest trees can be found where the least amount of humans can be found.”

The National Register of Big Trees is a program run by American Forests, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection and expansion of America’s forests. Its stated goal is to preserve and promote the iconic stature of trees and to educate people about the key role trees and forests play in sustaining a healthy environment.

Each year, the organization awards more than 750 big trees across the nation with title. Each tree is also documented in the American Forests’ annual publication “National Register of Big Trees.”

Some 780 trees were contained in the National Register of Big Trees for 2012; six of which can be found in Hawaii. Three of the trees are found on the Big Island including a hau tree, or sea hibiscus, found on the grounds of Hulihee Palace in Kailua-Kona; an acacia koa located in the Kona Hema Preserve in South Kona, and amanele, or soapberry wingleaf, found at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Bird Park/Kipuka Puaulu Trail. An aalii at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens on Maui and two coconut trees at Kapuaiwa Coconut Beach Park on Molokai are also on the register.

To nominate a tree, three measurements are needed: trunk circumference in inches, height in feet and average crown spread in feet. Please send the information to Hannah Bergemann, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 325, Honolulu, HI 96813.

For specific measurement requirements and guidelines for nominating a tree, and information about the 2012 recognized trees and others, visit americanforests.org/our-programs/bigtree.