Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
Maui’s Amazing Rainforest
Many of the trees you see in the rainforests along Hana highway were introduced for various reasons. For example, you will notice the bamboo forests which were planted by Chinese workers who helped build the Hana highway in the 1920s. It was used for building scaffolds and housing.
There are many stories about the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees which are found all over the island but are mainly seen on the slopes of Haleakala. I was told by a Haleakala ranch hand that they were originally planted as a source of lumber and fuel for the sugarcane industry and as an erosion deterrent after the sandalwood trade laid bare the slopes of Haleakala. Between 1934 and 1941 over 1 million trees were planted by the CCC (civilian conservation corps) throughout the state. They didn’t work out as lumber because Maui’s trade winds would whip them during their fast growing cycle which caused the trees wood grain to twist to the point of making it difficult to produce straight lumber. Another “twist of fate” is that being originally from Australia they had evolved to absorb as much water as possible from the arid outback. When the trees were introduced to Hawaiʻi they went to work sucking up approximately 100 gallons of water per day, drying out the soil and depositing oils that deterred water absorption in a one two punch to the land. Today they grow monstrously big and heavy and are difficult to control. These trees grow as large patches on the slopes of Haleakala that can be seen from miles away.