Sunday | April 26, 2015
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Big Island, big trees

Pull out your tape measure, camera and a map; it’s time to locate and nominate 21 of Hawaii’s native tree species to be crowned a National Champion Big Tree.

Ten trees in Hawaii — eight of which grow on Hawaii Island — are listed among the 787 National Champion Big Trees on the National Register of Big Trees, a program run by preservation group American Forests. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife is seeking nominations for the 2014 national register. Nominations are due Dec. 31.

“On Hawaii Island, we see more trees that tend to have a larger stature than the other islands,” said Sheri S. Mann, the division’s Forestry Program manager. “It could be a variety of environmental and human conditions. … Maybe folks on the Big Island are a little more in-tune and excited about it.”

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 Hawaii Big Tree Coordinator Nicholas Joly.

Nominations must include tree measurements and directions to, and geographic coordinates of, the tree. Photos are also suggested. State and public forest reserves or other land tracts are good areas to find large trees, Mann said. Permission must be secured before entering private land.

Ohia lehua is currently pending approval from American Forests to be eligible for the program. The state proposed the addition of the most common and widespread large tree in Hawaii for its “outstanding ecological and cultural significance,” Joly said.

The tree is critical to watershed protection and biodiversity habitat for many of Hawaii’s most threatened and endangered flora and fauna, he added. It also is considered a sacred tree in Hawaii for the many ways its wood and flowers are used.

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 the title. Each tree is also documented in the American Forests’ semiannual publication “National Register of Big Trees.”

The eight Hawaii Island trees on the register are:

c An Acacia koa, which was found in the Kona Hema Preserve in South Kona and measures 115 feet in height

c A Myrsine lessertiana, or kolea lau nui, which was found in the Puu Waawaa Forest Reserve and measures 32 feet in height

c An Erythrina sandwicensis, or wiliwili, which was found in Puu Lani Ranch and measures 39 feet in height

c A Hibiscus tiliaceus, or sea hibiscus or hau, which was found in Kailua-Kona and measures 25 feet in height

c A Nestigis sandwicensis, or Hawaiian olive tree or opopua, which was found Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and measures 32 feet in height

c A Pisonia brunoniana, or papalakepau, which was found in the Puu Waawaa Forest Reserve and measures 28 feet in height

c A Sapindus saponaria, or soapberry wingleaf or manele, which was found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and measures 73 feet in height

c A Sophora chrysophylla, or mamane, which was found in the Puuwaawaa Forest Reserve and measures 24 feet in height

The two trees in the state not located on Hawaii Island that made the register are a Cocos nucifera, or coconut palm or niu, which was found within the Hawea Heau Complex and Keawawa Wetland on Oahu and measures 112 feet in height and a Dodonea viscosa, or hopbush or aalii, which was found within the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului, Maui.

To nominate a tree, three measurements are needed: trunk circumference in inches, height in feet and average crown spread in feet. Nominations can be submitted to Nicholas Joly, DOFAW Hawaii Big Tree coordinator, by calling 586-0915.

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.