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Lyon Arboretum is removing 12 albizia trees that tower over the main trail and throughout the garden of the popular University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa facility. Albizias are a fast growing invasive species that are very large and have extremely heavy, long limbs.

“This particular species is very prone to suddenly having branches break and fall,” said Carl Evensen, the Lyon Arboretum interim director. “In the process, they will destroy, crush everything between the trees and we need to remove that hazard.”

Albizias caused much of the damage on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi during Tropical Storm Iselle, as seen in this video by Prime Footage. Broken branches and uprooted trees littered the hard hit Puna area, blocking roads and damaging homes.

The albizias at Lyon Arboretum, which is located in the back of Mānoa valley, are among the largest and oldest in the state.

Albizia tree trunk

“Some of these trees are over 150 feet high,” explained Evensen. “Some of the largest tree trunks have diameters of 10 feet across. These trees are even huge by the standards of albizia.”

If the trees are not removed, they will eventually pose a great risk to visitors, employees and the arboretum’s extensive plant collection.

“Most of these are wild collected specimens that have been collected all over the world for the last 95 years,” said Evenson.

When a tree is normally cut down, the limbs or the entire tree are allowed to fall, but in this situation that would decimate the rare plants on the ground.

“We’ve had to incur extra cost in this project to bring in specialized equipment and expertise to bring down these very large trees and dispose them a safe way,” said Evensen.

The cost to remove the trees will be about $980,000. They will be chipped and disposed of onsite and replaced with more practical tree species that will add to the arboretum’s already impressive collection.

“We feel that this is the right thing to do at the right time,” said Evensen.

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