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Tree Love


Arbor Day is a tricky holiday. The national celebration of tree planting is on the last Friday in April, but since it's a holiday uniquely dependant on weather, many states observe it during a more clement time of year. Hawai'i, for example, celebrates Arbor Day on the first Friday of this month, to take advantage of the coming rainy season.

It's easy to bring a piece of Arbor Day home-on Nov. 6, the Hawaiian Electric Co. and the Kaulunani Urban Forestry program are giving away 2,000 young trees in 18 varieties, including kaffir lime, soapberry and kou. Despite the tendency of trees to foul its power lines, HECO sees a tangible benefit in promoting them-shade trees around a house can reduce air-conditioning costs by more than 30 percent. "When you start talking about 20,000 trees over the past 10 years, now you're getting to a scale that makes a difference," says HECO communications consultant Bruce Benson.

19th Century botanical illustrations by Isabella Sinclair, from Common Hawaiian Trees. Koki‘o Ke‘oke‘o (white hibiscus) and a noni tree. Friends of Hawai‘i’s Urban Forest

To make sure the trees make it to shade-producing age, botanical experts at the giveaway sites will help people pick trees suitable to their homes' environments, and give advice on how to plant and care for their new trees. If you want a tree, get there early-according to Benson, supplies at most locations last only a few hours.

New tree owners may also want to pick up Common Hawaiian Trees, a book of planting tips and useful information on 48 different kinds of local trees, including their mature height and spread, preferred environment and peculiar characteristics. A noni tree, for example, produces fruit that can be mashed into a healthful drink, but don't plant one too close to the house unless you like the smell of strong cheese wafting through the windows.

Published as a joint effort by botanists and tree enthusiasts at the Kaulunani Urban Forestry program, the book originally began as a simple pamphlet handed out with new trees, containing proper care instructions. "Each year, there were new species, and we kept adding to the pamphlet, and it became a booklet, and then a book," Benson says. This newly revised edition contains full-color botanical illustrations painted by Isabella Sinclair in the late 1800s.

If you've got a black thumb, or just don't have room for a tree in your life, you can still get into the Arbor Day spirit. The Outdoor Circle is celebrating on Nov. 5 with a tree-planting ceremony at the Waipi'o Soccer Complex, with the help of Mayor Jeremy Harris. A monkeypod-the mayor's favorite tree-will be the guest of honor.

Arbor Day Events

Nov. 5

Arbor Day Tree Planting, Waipi‘o Soccer Complex, 9 a.m. For more information, call Mikey Pruitt at the Outdoor Circle, 593-0300.

Nov. 6

Arbor Day Tree Giveaway, begins at 9 a.m. at the Waimea Valley Audubon Center; 7 a.m. at the other sites. For more information, call Bruce Benson at HECO,

Wai‘anae: HECO’s Kahe power plant, 92-200 Farrington Highway.
Pearl City: Urban Garden Center, 962 Second St.
Honolulu: HECO’s Ward Avenue facility, 820 Ward Ave.
Kailua: HECO’s Ko‘olau Baseyard, 1387 Ulupi‘i St.
North Shore: Waimea Valley Audubon Center, 59-864 Kamehameha Highway.
Maui: Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului (249-2798).

Common Hawaiian Trees, published by the Friends of Hawai‘i’s Urban Forest, $16.95.

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Honolulu Magazine October 2019
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