Lahaina’s 150-year-old banyan tree that was charred by the wildfires is showing signs of new life

When wildfires ravaged Maui in August, homes and businesses were charred in the historic town of Lahaina — including the town’s famed banyan tree. But the singed tree remained standing, and has shown a new sign of hope: New green leaves sprouting among the dead.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) shared a video of the sign of life on Sept. 13. The department said last month that while it didn’t seem like the 150-year-old tree was showing signs of life, it was.

Since the fires, tankers of water had been dumping hundreds of gallons of water on the tree every few hours. The extra care by arborists, landscapers and other volunteers finally yielded results, landscape contractor Chris Imonti said.

New green leaves are sprouting from Lahaina’s 150-year-old banyan tree, which was singed by the wildfires in Maui in August.

Hawaii DNLR

“We did root samples last week and we had very good news as far as new life in the roots,” Imonti said in a statement on Aug. 31. “A lot of new roots shooting off.”

They formed a banyan tree hui – or conference – unofficially lead by arborist Steve Nimz, who measured the growth rate of the tree using sensors, Imonti said.

They also used “compost tea,” a mix of natural ingredients formulated by Imonti that was shot into the ground and tree. Alfalfa, a flowering legume plant, was also placed around the tree as an experiment to see if the nutrients in the plant would help restore it.

Wildfires driven by high winds hit Hawaiian island of Maui
The iconic 60-foot banyan tree is seen in Lahaina after wildfires driven by high winds burned across most of the town several days ago, in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, U.S. August 10, 2023.


Lahaina, which was once Hawaii’s capital, was home to many historic buildings. The 60-foot banyan tree was originally planted in 1873 by Sheriff William Owen Smith to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission to the town, which is part of Lahaina’s rich history. 

The tree became a tourist attraction where many people held parties and even got engaged. Now, it’s a symbol of hope. 

“I’ve been here for years and years so, like many others, I have a personal attachment to the tree,” Imonti said. “To me, it’s a symbol of hope. We’re taking it to heart to try to bring back the tree, to give some hope to Lāhainā. We don’t know what’s down the line, but I think it’s going to be a new beginning for everybody.”

Banyan Tree - Hawaii
The great banyan tree on Lahaina Town’s historic Front Street in February 2018. The iconic tree was scorched by a wildfire Aug. 8, 2023.

Jennifer McDermott / AP

The devastating wildfires left at least 97 people dead, 74 of whom have been identified, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green announced last week. Another 31 people are still missing. 

West Maui will open in October, and the governor called on visitors to travel to the island. 

“You will be helping our people heal,” Green told “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday. “After October 8, if you could come to Hawaii and really help fortify us, because it’s been a very tough time,” he added.

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