It was once filled with bright green leaves and sweeping branches that covered its visitors with shade. Now, Lahaina’s historic 150-year-old banyan tree has been charred by the wildfires and is dull in color – but still alive.
“Banyan Tree in Lahaina smoldering at the base, but still standing,” Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz wrote accompanying a video he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Just about the only thing left, other than the Lighthouse.”
Wildfires in Maui have ravaged the island, killing over four dozen people while severely burning buildings that play an integral part of Hawaiian history. That history includes the oft-visited banyan tree, which was enjoying its sesquicentennial anniversary this year until the fire broke out.
Imported from India and planted in front of the Lahaina Courthouse and Lahaina Harbor in 1873, the tree is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Banyan tree branches produce roots that spawn additional, accessory trunks such that the trees grow up as well as out.
Stretching an entire city block and more than 60 feet tall, the Lahaina banyan tree has provided cooling shade to generations of locals and visitors beneath its massive, majestic branches and dangling vines, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Events and art exhibits often have been held under its boughs, the agency says.
Just 8 feet tall when it was planted, the tree has 46 major trunks in addition to its massive original one and spreads shade over nearly two-thirds of an acre, according to the Lahaina Restoration Foundation. Its health is monitored and maintained by the Maui County Arborist Committee.
While the tree remains standing, it’s unclear how healthy it is after surviving the wildfires that all but destroyed parts of Lahaina.
“It needs water desperately to survive right now,” CNN’s Bill Weir said while reporting from Lahaina on Thursday. “But for the locals who are coming down and looking at the damage, this is such a sign of hope that maybe their iconic tree will have lived when so much else has gone here.”
CNN’s Chris Boyette contributed to this report.