Tuesday | November 21, 2017
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Big Island, Big trees

Forty new Big Tree champions were added to this year’s American Forests National Register of Big Trees, including five Hawaii Island trees.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources this week announced six trees from Hawaii — a coconut (Cocos nucifera) in Hawaii Kai, a wiliwili (Eryrthrina sandwicensis) at Puu Lani Ranch on the Big Island, and a kolea (Myrsine lessertiana), an olopua (Nestegis sandwicensis), a papala kepau (Pisonia brunoniana) and a mamane (Sophora chrysophylla), all located within the Puuwaawaa Forest Reserve in North Kona.

Hawaii now has 10 recognized champions, DLNR officials said.

Hannah Bergemann, an AmeriCorps intern with DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, measured the trees that were nominated for the Big Tree registry. She said American Forests uses a formula that considers the tree’s height, circumference and crown spread to determine which is the largest example of a given species.

That the five Hawaii Island champions all come from the same region is significant, Bergemann said.

“That’s a really special type of ecosystem, a tropical dry forest,” she said, adding that ecosystem is fairly rare. “A lot of the dry forest species are struggling with invasive species.”

Staff in the Puuwaawaa area have worked hard to combat those invasive species, Bergemann said.

“It’s a great testimony to the work they are doing and a great victory for them,” she added.

Bergemann said DLNR is looking to submit more species to the registry, including ohia and sandalwood.

The American Forests magazine Big Trees program began with a call to find the country’s biggest trees in September 1940, according to the magazine’s website. The intent wasn’t to find “the famous and historic trees that were already protected, but the giants left standing in virgin forests.” The register now lists 780 trees from across the country.

The full registry, and information about additional Big Tree programs, is available at americanforests.org.