Green Matters: Some Honolulu Trees Might Qualify You For a Tax Credit

Yes, money can grow on trees.
Monkeypod trees
Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Circle


On Tantalus, just below the lookout, there’s a gold tree that blooms bright each April and May, a burst of yellow against the vibrant green of the mountain, and some observant students note that it means one wonderful thing: Summer vacation is coming.


Did you know that we have an Exceptional Tree Act, passed by the state Legislature in 1975? It was created to protect exceptional trees from improper trimming and removal, ensuring that generations to come will get to enjoy them. According to the act, an exceptional tree is “a tree, stand or grove of trees with historic or cultural value, or that by reason of age, rarity, location, size, aesthetic quality or endemic status, is designated by a county arborist advisory committee as worthy of preservation.”


Exceptional trees can be on either public or private land. Myles Ritchie, programs director at The Outdoor Circle, used GIS to create a map of the exceptional trees across the state. “Our ultimate goal is to have more trees on the list,” says Ritchie. “Of the 1,000-plus exceptional trees and groves in the state, approximately 850 are on O‘ahu, and there are certainly many more we could recognize and preserve on Neighbor Islands.” The trees are exceptional not only because of their aesthetic appeal, but for their ecosystem services, such as shade and wind blocks, as well as carbon offsetting. Ritchie’s favorites include the Kapok tree at Young and Ke‘eaumoku streets, as well as the much-loved Indian banyan in Lahaina that tourists and locals alike enjoy wandering through.


‘iolani Palace
Indian Banyan at ‘Iolani Palace.
Photo: Rachel Ross Bradley


A stunning tree can greatly increase the sale price of a home. And there’s a tax credit available to homeowners with an exceptional tree: If a tree on your lot meets the exceptional tree requirements, consider nominating it via the Outdoor Circle’s website. The mayor-appointed Arborist Advisory Committee will review the nomination, and if your tree is deemed exceptional, you may claim a $3,000 tax credit every three years. The credit is meant to offset the costs of caring for the tree.


The chosen trees have small plaques on them. This map shows you where to find them. There are baobab and Jack-in-the-Box trees at UH, a pink bombax in Kāhala, an earpod at Archie Baker Park, and not surprisingly, four exceptional trees in Moanalua Gardens. And many, many more. Green marks the trees that are accessible to the public.


That gold tree on Tantalus isn’t on the list. It’s common. But it sure looks exceptional from Lower Mānoa and Makiki.


Read more stories by Rachel Ross Bradley