Hawai‘i’s 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 voted 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!
December 23, 2015 : As the Spring 2016 season for Hawaiʻi’s Big Tree Competition starts up, we also remember two former Big Tree champions.
The annual Big Tree Competition is well underway and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife is inviting fellow nature enthusiasts to submit the biggest trees found across Hawaii. The National competition comes in light of the tragic falling of Hawaiʻi’s own Big Tree champions: Coco the beloved Hawaii Kai coconut palm, and the ʻAʻaliʻi tree (Hopbush) from the Maui Botanical Gardens. To recall, Coco was crowned 2014’s National Big Tree Coconut species winner as well as the National Ultimate Big Tree for all species in American Forests’ March Madness Competition. Both fallen champions are being respectively re-used at their locations as a cultural tool for educational purposes.
As we honor the past and embrace the future, we seek new champions for these two trees and the other 19 eligible species acknowledged by American Forests. More information about eligible species and other native Hawaiian champion trees can be found below.
Hawaiʻi Tree Species Eligible to be a National Big Tree Champion
|Common Tree Name||Hawaiian Tree Name||Genus & Species|
|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|
|Hawaiian sumach||Nenelau||Rhus sandwicensis|
|Oʻahu prickly-ash||Aʻe||Zanthoxylum oahuense|
|Paper mulberry||Wauke||Broussonetia papyrifera|
|Sea hibiscus||Hau||Hibiscus tiliaceus|
|Soapberry wingleaf||Mānele||Sapindus saponaria|
Hawai‘i currently has 8 National Big Tree Champions
Click to view:
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|
|Kokiʻo keʻokeʻo||Hibiscus arnottianus|
|Maʻo hau hele||Hibiscus brackenridgei|
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).