‘Ōhi‘a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) |Image by Forest and Kim Starr

This season has been one of tragedy and divisiveness as a variant sweeps through our small community, the vaccinated and unvaccinated become more dissociated, and locals and visitors face off.  Observing the American holiday, Arbor Day, may seem like a frivolous act this year. But other species are also facing challenges, and individual actions can have long lived consequences. A recently published global assessment of tree species concluded that about one third of trees on Earth and one quarter of trees in the U.S. are threatened with extinction. How does Hawai‘i compare? Of the 183 native Hawaiian tree species evaluated for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List so far, more than 70% are endangered or critically endangered. Even if the remaining 76 unmeasured native Hawaiian trees are doing fine, which is optimistic, more than half of all native Hawaiian tree species are in immediate danger of disappearing. This means that planting and stewarding a native tree makes more of a difference here than many other places in the world. 

Arbor Day in Hawai‘i is the first Friday of each November, instead of being observed in spring like most of the U.S. continent. In 1905 the Territory of Hawai‘i was the first to choose their own local rainy season to celebrate Arbor Day, and challenged schools across the state to plant trees on school grounds. This year, Hawaiian Arbor Day celebrations will be held the week of November 1-6, with Maui’s Arbor Day Garden Expo being celebrated at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens with online tree care and selection classes, offerings from local nurseries, and a native tree giveaway one per resident, regardless of age. To learn which native species will thrive in your area and reserve your trees for safe and distanced pickup, visit www.arbordayexpo.com. The action of planting and nurturing a native Hawaiian tree is small but consequential, the anticipation of a better future none of us are guaranteed to see. Don’t overlook the importance of observing hopeful traditions this year.

You can see these trees and more at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, open Tuesday through Saturday. Join the Maui Nui Botanical Garden in celebrating Arbor Day from November 2-6, 2021. Follow @mauinuibg to learn more.