Considering one of Hawaii’s largest Norfolk Island Pines lives in my yard presiding over the neighborhood, I feel like I can write about this well known species of subtropical trees. When one lives in the shade of a magnificent giant, it doesn’t make you an expert, but it does grant license to share some of the stories, beauty and challenges of this experience.
The tree in my yard was likely planted in the mid to late 1800’s. My tree trimmers tell me it is one of the very biggest in the state. A local Old Timer told me that this tree was considered as a “Sighting Tree”. I like the romantic notion of finding your way home by a lone and giant tree.
These ornamental confers hail from the Norfolk Islands which is in the South Pacific in between New Caledonia and New Zealand. In 1774, Captain Cook noted these trees in the Norfolk Islands and thought them to be suitable for ship mast replacements, however, it turns out they were not. They are a wood turner’s delight producing beautiful bowls with a golden translucent hue.
Now, a true pine is slow growing with very straight trunks. Also known as a Star Pine, Triangle Tree and a Polynesian Pine, the branches become less symmetrical as the tree matures. I have thinned out the bottom branches throughout the years. At first it was hard to see the sky, then I realized I could take out the bottom branches and open it up. Unbelievably, they sprout back again within a few months. I prefer to think of all that life force travelling a bit higher up the tree to keep it healthy at the top. I have “wrapped” the higher branches with a strong webbing as it has also sprouted a few new tops that I want to keep together. It does well with our strong winds, and luckily only produced pine cones one year during our years together. The cones are large, around 6 inches in diameter , dense, very sharp and produced towards the top of the tree, so “ Watch out below!!”
The story of Makawao Town’s beloved Norfolk and the famous Christmas star is linked below through the “Guava Juice” newsletter from our tiny and mighty Makawao History Museum. I hope you enjoy this story as well.