Yes, there are other trees that grow on Maui besides palm trees. Arguably the most famous tree on Maui can be found in downtown Lahaina. The Maui Banyan Tree, which occupies a full city block just across the street from the Lahaina Harbor, is claimed to be the largest Banyan Tree in all of the United States (when I was riding the Conch Train in Key West last summer the tour guide was amazed I knew this fact… I believe Key West has the second largest banyan tree).
The Maui Banyan Tree was originally planted back in 1873 to mark 50 years of Christian missionary work in the whaling town of Lahaina. Back then, the tree was no more than an unimpressive 8-foot shrub brought over from India. Fast-forward more than 130 years and this tree is now a focal point in Lahaina and a “maui-style” park for locals and tourist alike.
Banyan trees are unique in the fact that they grow vines down from their wide spanning branches. Once these vines reach the ground, they sprout roots deep into the earth and essentially transform into a brand new tree, still connected to the previous banyan tree. The Lahaina Banyan Tree is said to have twelve major trunks, with vines hanging down from limbs in all directions. When I was young, I used to swing from the vines and climb the tree, but that kind of activity is no longer condoned, as efforts have been made to preserve this historic tree.
As I mentioned above, the area shaded under the Maui Banyan Tree acts as a local park. Many tourist cap off a night eating at Hard Rock Café or Kimo’s with a Lappert’s ice cream cone under the banyan tree. Quite often local musicians will escape the heat of Lahaina by sitting under the tree and strum on their guitar. Often times, weekend arts and crafts fairs or cultural displays are set up under the banyan tree, providing entertainment for those walking along Front Street.
Local Tip: The best time to visit the banyan tree is during the holiday season when it is decorated with festive lights. Who needs a traditional picture of the family in front of an indoor Christmas tree, when you could snap a photo including the giant illuminated Maui Banyan Tree?
[Photo source: Bionikk1]