Hawai‘i Big Tree Competition


Run by American Forests, the National Big Tree competition seeks to find the biggest tree species in the United States to promote and preserve our tree species. In Hawai‘i, our goal is to educate the public about our native and culturally valuable tree species. Currently the State of Hawai‘i has twenty-one tree species eligible to be crowned a National Big Tree Champion, listed below. The Champion Big Trees are measured based on a point system designed by American Forests using their height, circumference, and crown spread. We encourage the public to join our search for the biggest tree of each of these species. Can you find the next Big Tree Champion?

UPDATE 6/3/16 : Koa comes up short in Ultimate Big Tree Madness Competition


In March of 2016, Hawaii’s very own Koa tree was selected to compete in the Ultimate Big Tree Madness Competition held by American Forests. For three weeks, the public voteBTM Koad via social media for their favorite trees and determined who would move on to the next round. Hawai’i was able to take on California’s Western Juniper, however lost by one point in the following “Elite Eight” round to Oregon’s Incense Cedar.  In the end, it was Missour’s White Basswood tree that took the title.  Even though Koa was not crowned the 2016 Ultimate Big Tree champion, the native species is still seen as a champion species here at home. Koa is the largest native tree in the Hawaiian Islands and has been a vital resource to both old and present-day Hawai’i. The wood from Koa is highly prized and can be used to create canoes, bowls, furniture, and ukuleles.


Our champion Koa hails from the Nature Conservancy’s Kona Hema Preserve on Hawai’i Island. It is currently the biggest of its kind in the world: standing 115 feet tall with a canopy 93 feet wide, and a circumference of 343 inches. To reach this massive size, the Koa had to withstand several centuries of changes in the environment, weather, disease, and threats such as invasive plants and loggers. The tree is a true marvel and survivor, still standing through several logging operations within the area and even able to provide offspring. Native trees like our Koa are not only essential to our ecosystem but our cultural identity as well. Mahalo to everyone who supported Koa in the March Big Tree Madness competition and hope to see you next year!



Hawaiʻi’s 21 Tree Species Eligible to be a National Big Tree Champion

Common Tree Name Hawaiian Tree Name Genus & Species
Koa Koa Acacia koa
Lama Lama Diospyros sandwicensis
Wiliwili Wiliwili Erythrina sandwicensis
ʻŌhiʻa ha ʻŌhiʻa ha Syzygium sandwicense
Malaysian apple ʻŌhiʻa ai Syzygium malaccense
White hibiscus Kokiʻo keʻokeʻo Hibiscus arnottianus
Hibiscus Maʻo hau hele Hibiscus brackenridgei
Red Kauaʻi hibiscus Aloalo Hibiscus clayii
Hawaiian holly Kāwaʻu Ilex anomala
Kolea lau nui Kōlea lau nui Myrsine lessertiana
Hawaiian olive Olopua Nestegis sandwicensis
Papalakepau Pāpalakēpau Pisonia brunoniana
Hawaiian sumach Nenelau Rhus sandwicensis
Soapberry Lonomea Sapindus oahuensis
Mamane Mamane Sophora chrysophylla
Oʻahu prickly-ash Aʻe Zanthoxylum oahuense
Paper mulberry Wauke Broussonetia papyrifera
Coconut Niu Cocos nucifera
Sea hibiscus Hau Hibiscus tiliaceus
Soapberry wingleaf Mānele Sapindus saponaria
Hopbush ʻAʻaliʻi Dodonaea viscosa


Hawai‘i currently has 12 National Big Tree Champions
Click to view:

 Wiliwili || Hau || Kāwaʻu || Koa || Kokiʻo keʻokeʻo ||Lama || Maʻo hau hele || Niu || Olopua || Pāpalakēpau || Kōlea lau nui || Mamane  

Seeking A Champion

The Hawai‘i Big Tree Competition does not have a champion for the following Hawaiian species that are eligible for the National Big Tree Program. Therefore, any tree nominated from the following list will likely be crowned a champion.

Hawaiian Tree Name Genus & Species
ʻŌhiʻa ha Syzygium sandwicense
ʻŌhiʻa ai Syzygium malaccense
Aloalo Hibiscus clayii
Nenelau Rhus sandwicensis
Lonomea Sapindus oahuensis
Aʻe Zanthoxylum oahuense
Wauke Broussonetia papyrifera

Nominate a Tree

To nominate a tree, contact the Hawai‘i Big Tree Coordinator at 808-587-0164. Be ready to provide the tree height (ft), trunk circumference (in), and average crown spread (ft). Please also know your tree’s specific location (GPS coordinates are appreciated).