As Iconic Hawaiian Banyan Tree Heals, Hope Blooms

Sep 26, 2023

Thought Question: Think of a time in your life when you were faced with a tough challenge but managed to come back even stronger? What do you think helps people bounce back when they face difficulties?

The reach of a tree’s branches depends on its trunk. Those are the words of an old Hawaiian proverb.

An ancient banyan tree in west Maui was believed doomed by the August wildfires that scorched Lahaina and killed nearly 100 people. But it has just sprouted dozens of shoots. The new growth has filled locals with hope that the beloved tree and their destroyed community will rise from the ashes.

Annelise Cochran believes in the metaphor. She led neighbors to safety during the fires.

"Our branches are very badly burned, and it's going to take a really, really long time until everything feels normal," Cochran told People magazine. "But the roots are so strong here."

The tree’s resurgence isn’t only the result of good luck. Tree experts and volunteers have worked for weeks to nurse the natural landmark back to health. They’ve aerated the soil and quenched the burned tree with nutrients. They have drenched the roots with tons of water. The 60-foot banyan tree may be the largest of its kind in the US. 

Much of the town’s history is embedded in the tree’s rings. The banyan tree was only eight feet tall when it was planted in the center of Lahaina in April 1873. That was 27 years before Hawaii became a US territory. Over the next 150 years it has served as the site of many celebrations. Those have ranged from a birthday party for a king to marriage proposals for young couples.  

Its comeback is perhaps a reminder of another Hawaiian proverb: “The fire of love will burn as long as it has something to feed upon.” That, and the enduring belief that love is stronger than death.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Banyan Court Park.

Based on the details in the story, which word would best describe the banyan tree? (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. fragile
b. resilient
c. thriving
d. magical
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