Redwoods in Maui? I first heard about them at the Nature Center in . A sign there said they were grown for commercial reasons in Hawaii. So now that I’m here on the island of Maui I just had to see them for myself.
I knew that redwood from our forests was used in the early 1900’s for surfboards. They were tough and durable but also heavy so the boards were redesigned in the 1930’s combining redwood with balsa. Balsa was hard to get in large quantities so the boards were constructed of both- with balsa at the center and the rails of tougher redwood to strengthen the board.
But how did redwoods come to be planted in Maui? Like our area that was clear cut in the 1800’s for lumber and to fuel the lime kilns so too the forests of Maui were harvested in the 1700’s. Sandalwood, exported to China for its fragrant aroma, became the island’s first cash crop. Millions of trees were logged from the mountain forests. The men of the farming class were forced to cut trees, first on the lower slope and then farther up into the mountains, to pay for the chief’s acquisitions of weapons, warships and European imports. Further damage was done by livestock brought by westerners – pigs, goats, sheep and especially cattle.
When the watershed was destroyed, the water disappeared for sugar cane, too. Reforestation started in the 1920’s when nearly two million trees were planted annually. Fast growing species like redwoods, cedar, sugar pines and eucalyptus were planted to increase the watershed. While these introduced trees and shrubs prevented catastrophic destruction, they produced sparse forests with fewer species than the complex, multi-layered systems created by native forests.
Fast forward to 2007 when the area was devastated by a wildfire. Hawaii is not an area that is renewed by fires like California. It destroyed most of the forest. The redwood trees survived however. This area must suit redwoods as it is draped in clouds and fog at 6000 feet and many of the trees planted in the 20’s and 30’s are over 100 feet tall. Now the area is replanted with native trees as well as 57.000 redwood seedlings that received a blessing at planting time. More redwoods were replanted because they are less prone to spread fire.
So if you’re in Maui up near Haleakala crater in Polipoli State Park check out the quiet, serene Redwood Trail. Some of the trees probably came from redwood seedlings from our area.