The Lost Ecosystem of Maui’s Ancient Forests
Hawaiian Koa Trees
Lifeline of the Hawaiian People
The ancient Hawaiians had a connection with nature that was a large part of their survival and thus, their culture and beliefs. Rituals were performed and prayers given in the gathering of plants, birds and fish.
Hawaii’s most famous example is the Maui Banyan Tree found on Front Street in Lahaina. It is one of the largest of it’s kind in the world. In 1823 the Hawaiian Queens Keopuolani and Ka’ahumanu befriended the first American missionaries who arrived on Maui. These Queens were inspired to give them this beautiful area of Lahaina to build their coral and stone homes and buildings. Throughout this area of Lahaina can be found plaques which tell the stories of these missionaries and how they worked to help the Hawaiian rulers form a new nation.
Banyan trees are also quite plentiful in lower parts of the West Maui Mountains as well as in the Hana area. A great example of this tree can be found along the path to the Pools of Oheo.
Maui Fruit Trees
Canoe Plants of Polynesia
It is said the first Hawaiians brought coconuts with them on their voyages from Polynesia. Coconuts are not indigenous to Hawaiʻi and it is hard to say exactly when they arrived in Hawai’i as they are well known for traveling great distances on the ocean currents.
Fresh off the tree they have a thick green wood pulp like husk that must be whacked off to get to the nut. Another favorite experience of ours was at a local private luau on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi where they had a trash can filled with fresh coconuts on ice. A guy would whack off the top of the green husk and nut in a couple precision strikes with a machete, dump some rum in it and hand it to you with a straw. It was friggin awesome. Another well known desert in the islands is haupia which is a firm coconut pudding concoction. Sweet yet mellow. We could go on and on about stuff like candied coconut or the many fish dishes made with coconut milk we’ve enjoyed, but our best advice is to get your hands on a fresh one and anything else that’s “coconut kine” on Maui if you get the chance.
We just scratched the surface on the topic of Maui’s fruit trees but the best advice we can give people who visit Maui is to get your hands on some fresh fruit! It’s one of Maui’s true treasures.