Dominating the courthouse square in downtown Lahaina is one of the most remarkable aboreal specimens. Covering an area of one quarter mile, its octopus- like limbs stretch outward, spreading a vast network of branches, leaves and aerial roots towards the streets and buildings surrounding it. Extraordinary, almost surreal, it seems more like a fantastic prop from a Tim Burton film than a real life living thing. How did this giant come to lay its roots in this tiny port of Lahaina? Here’s the story.
On April 24, 1873, to honor the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lahaina, which was started at the request of Queen Keōpūolani, the sacred wife and widow of King Kamehameha the Great, Sheriff William Owen Smith planted the exotic Indian Banyan. At the time it was only eight feet tall.