Recently, 22 stately trees at Waimea Valley were approved by the Arborist Advisory Committee to be listed as Exceptional Trees.
This program was founded by the State of Hawaii in 1975 to mandate each county to establish a County Arborist Advisory Committee which enacts regulations to protect trees of exceptional stature. Exceptional trees must meet one or more of the following criteria: historic or cultural value, age, rarity, location, size, esthetic quality and endemic status.
At Waimea Valley, the new Exceptional Trees include two Monkey Pod (Albizia saman); two Ohe-makai (Reynoldsia sandwicensis); and 18 Wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis) trees. These century-old monkey pod trees with 9 feet diameter trunks awe our guests at the visitor center. These endemic ohe-makai and wiliwili trees were used culturally by the Hawaiians. Ohe-makai was used to play a game called kukulu`ae`o (stilts). The soft light wood of the wiliwili is still used for outriggers and occasionally surfboards and was used as fishnet floats. These exceptional trees existed in the Valley before the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden was created in 1972.
These trees live in an area steep with cultural features and spiritual significance, Waimea Valley has 78 recorded archaeological surface sites. Two large heiau, Puu O Mahuka and Kupopolo,
guard the entrance to the Valley with fishing shrines dotting the coastal edges. House lots and agricultural terraces are found along the valley floor. Waimea Valley and the adjacent ridge of Pupukea remained important centers of religion and spirituality until 1819 and were presided over through the centuries by kāhuna nui who were direct descendants of Pa‘ao.
Josie Hoh is a trained horticulturist and is the botanical group manager for Hi`ipaka LLC dba Waimea Valley.