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Gail Hennessey

The official U.S. time - snapshot

The Banyan Tree of Lahaini


Gail Skroback Hennessey

Words: 794

Ailani (ah-ee-LAH-nee ) and her older Keanu (kay-AH-noo) were walking down the street from their house in their hometown of Lahaina. As with every walk, they made sure they stopped to view the famous Banyan tree. The two were on their way to meet their father at the dock. His fishing charter boat would soon be arriving back to the island of Maui stocked with ahi tuna, wahoo, aku, and mahi mahi. “I hope dad makes some mahi mahi tonight for dinner. It’s my favorite!,” said Keanu, as the two came upon the tree.

From the forest of trees, thousands of mynah birds were squawking up a storm as they perched on the branches nibbling the cherry like fruit that had recently bloomed. Pointing toward the area, Keanu announced, “It’s pretty amazing that’s ONE tree! Dad said the tree is from the country of India and was planted back in the late 1800s to mark the 50th anniversary of missionaries coming to Lahaina.” Keanu’s dad had also told him that the tree, which now covers over 200 ft and has 12 major tree trunks, was only 8 ft. tall when it was first planted. The tree’s name comes from the Indian language meaning traders. That’s because the banias would seek shelter from the hot Indian sun under these tree which provided so much shade.” announced Ailani proudly.

Ailani and Keanu stood gazing at the Banyan tree, its magnificent canopy with aerial roots dropping from branches down to the ground, always a beautiful sight. A young woman, young man and small child, tourists to be sure, came upon them. “Aloha, would you please take a picture of us? I’d love to show my family back home this amazing tree.” said the young woman.

Keanu said he’d be happy to take the picture as he’d done countless times for tourists that come to the town of Lahaina. “Just show me where to push the button on your camera” explained Keanu. Proudly, Keanu added, “ Did you know this banyon tree is one of the world’s largest? After being prompted to say mahi mahi instead of cheese by Keanu, he pushed the button, and then showed the digital photograph to the couple. Both the young man and woman said mahalo and they then left to wander around the huge tree.

Walking away from the tree, Ailani and Keanu heard Henoheno giving one of her talks to tourists. Henoheno had lived in Lahaini all her life and during most afternoons could be found sharing information about her tree to visitors who came to Lahaini. Almost 80, Henoheno enjoyed talking with people and especially enjoyed seeing the Kai kids. “Aloha, Keanu and Ailani, she called out as the two came into her view. “ Ailani”, Henoheno said as the two came to see her, “don’t forget our lesson tomorrow.” Ailani said that she would certainly not forgot her weekly meeting with Henoheno who had offered to pass along the Banyan tree knowledge for her to one day share with others.

“Ailani, dear, would you share something about the banyan tree to these guests to our town?” smiled Henoheno. The twelve year old Ailani returned the smile and said with pride.” Did you know that birds help the tree to grow? When they drop seeds onto the tall palm trees, the seeds germinate(grow) and soon, the sprouts turn to branches. The roots of these branches start to hang down, eventually growing to the soil. The roots then bury into the soil and grow into another tree trunk! Because the trees spread out and don’t stay rooted in one place, the people of India call the Banyan tree, ‘the trees that walk’ or ‘one with many feet”!”

"Very good, Ailani. You have learned last week’s lesson well. Pretty soon, you can give one of my tree talks for me!” Henoheno announced. At that moment, a car went by honking its horn. “Probably, an impatient driver,” said Henoheno. “but, if this had been in the island nation of Indonesia,epecially on Bali, people honk their car horns whenever they pass a banyan tree! It’s a sign of respect for these honored members of the tree kingdom.”

Ailani and her brother, Keanu, said Aloha to Henoheno and continued on toward the dock. They spotted their dad's, red and white fishing boat approaching the pier.

Waving to their dad who they saw on the deck, Ailani turned to Keanu and said,” “Keanu, Henoheno gave me a good idea. Tonight, will you help me make some signs? I’d like to place them near the street in front of the Banyan tree.” said Ailani. “They will say, ‘Honk if you respect our awesome tree!”


Arborist: David Sakoda

Note: Illustration from