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Malama the Trees

May 16, 2013
Elaine Malina · President - Contributing Writer ( , Maui Weekly

We must malama (take care of) our trees, whether they are in our natural or urban forests.

Our urban forest consists of park trees, street trees, commercial and residential trees and parking lot trees.

Many people who have questioned the way many street trees and other urban trees are pruned have contacted the Maui Outdoor Circle.

Article Photos

Maui Outdoor Circle
Elaine Malina

A majority of street trees are on Maui County property; therefore, the county is the steward of this property for the community.

Pruning trees incorrectly is an unacceptable practice. Some of these incorrect methods are topping them to reduce the trees' height, pruning them as "lollipop" trees, or pruning them so high up the trunk that it looks like giraffes with chain saws did the work. These improperly pruned trees yield no substantial shade, and provide little or no benefits to our community.

An example of incorrect and correct pruning can be seen side-by-side on the north end of South Kihei Road. The four controversial monkeypod trees were drastically and incorrectly pruned just recently. The branches with leaves were removed almost to the top of the tree leaving only a small crown.

The other 10 monkeypod trees are correctly pruned and have large tree crowns which sustains the tree and benefits the community by providing more shade. This is turn reduces energy use and even extends the life of pavement.

More leaves also means more oxygen for us and cleaner air. A healthy crown of leaves also slows the wind, and provides homes for birds, insects and our struggling bee population.

It is important to remember that the leaves of the trees make food for the tree, so when the crown is reduced severely by improper pruning, the tree is being stressed. Yes, the trees will survive, because they are tough and can tolerate this unnecessary pruning. But the tree's benefits to the community are drastically reduced as well. And the property owner is wasting money unnecessarily.

As with the case of these improperly trimmed trees on county property, they are sometimes trimmed by private parties, which saves the county money.

The Maui Outdoor Circle would like to see the county assist in the education of the community and the tree trimmers who are doing the job. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) sets the standards for tree care internationally and also trains the majority of certified arborists. For more information, visit the ISA Website or ISA Trees are Good Website.

We must malama the trees in Maui County and stand firm in proper and correct pruning standards for the urban forest.

Maui Outdoor Circle has education tree pruning information available and is continuing "Malama the Trees" educational workshop every November. Contact MOC at or

Elaine Malina is the president of Maui Outdoor Circle, a branch of the Outdoor Circle which was established in 1912. She is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist since 1997 and a former member of the Maui County Arborist Committee from 1998-2006. She has worked in the landscape industry on Maui for 30 years and is involved in the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals.



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