Speaking for the trees

On Friday, November 1, we can all celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree. In Hawaii, the first Arbor Day was proclaimed in 1905 as a day to plant trees and shrubs on school grounds and in public parks. Since 1993, Hawaiian Electric and Kaulalani (the Urban and Community Forestry Program) have also given away over 20,000 free seedlings.

There are free tree giveaways on four islands. Get there early to choose a tree that’s right for you (get there early – one per person, while supplies last).

* Oahu: On November 2, there are free native tree giveaways at the Hawaiian Electric Kahe Power Plant in Waianae; the Urban Garden Center in Pearl City; the Hawaiian Electric Ward Avenue facility in Honolulu; the Hawaiian Electric Koolau Base Yard in Kailua; the Wahiawa Botanical Garden in Wahiawa; and Waimea Valley on the North Shore.

* Maui: On November 2, 1,000 Hawaiian trees will be given away at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului. There will also be free demonstrations of proper tree care and water-saving techniques.

* Kauai: On November 2, over 2,000 plants and trees will be given away at Kukui Grove in Lihue. There will also be free compost and educational giveaways and booths.

* Hawaii Island: On November 1-3, 500 native trees will be given away at the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook, during a three-day celebration. You can also watch woodworkers make poi boards and poi stones; and take a guided tour of the Garden (with paid admission).

Arbor Day Hawaii has a helpful 5-step checklist to select the right tree for your space:
1. What do you want the tree to do? Should it provide shade, windscreen, fruit, or flowers, and grow big or stay small?
2. How much space does the tree have to grow? Are there overhead power lines, underground utilities, nearby buildings or structures, swimming pools, or scenic views? Remember: roots can extend 2-3 times beyond the canopy!
3. How are the planting conditions? What are the sunlight, water, soil, wind, and salt spray conditions?
4. Will the tree grow well in your neighborhood? What other trees and flourish grow nearby?
5. How much maintenance does the tree require? What kind of maintenance can you do – falling leaves and seeds, picking flowers or fruit, and tree trimming?

You can also download “Hawaii Backyard Conservation: Ideas for every homeowner” to learn about conservation practices and native plants.

Beyond planting a tree at your home, you can support the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, which is dedicated to restoring 1,000 acres of historic koa forest on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island. You can sponsor the planting of a Koa Legacy Tree or plant your own tree on a Legacy Tour.

Nelson Henderson said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” What trees have you planted? Who planted the trees in your life?

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