Tree pest leads to removal of many Waikiki banyan trees

By Nana Ohkawa
Published On: May 29 2014 07:13:07 PM HST
Updated On: May 29 2014 07:53:16 PM HST

Crews are cutting down dangerously brittle Banyan trees along Monsarrat Avenue in the fight against the Lobate Lac Scale invasive pest.

HONOLULU -

You'll have less shade along Monsarrat Avenue soon. More banyan trees are falling victim to an invasive plant pest.

Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's story.

City officials say combating the pest is an uphill battle.

These Benjamin Banyan trees have withstood a lot in their 50 years fronting Kapiolani Regional Park, but they couldn't stand up to the Lobate Lac Scale. It's a one-centimeter pest that's proven to be too much.

Residents noticed the trees slowly dying.

"I could tell something was wrong because they don't have any leaves on them. It's sad," said Waikiki resident Wanda Gardner.

"Hopefully they replace them with similar trees because they give a lot of shade," said Jose Lopez, a Waikiki resident.

When arborists spotted the infection three months ago they tried to save them with a pesticide.

"It's injected in the base of the tree. The tree uptakes it into the branches and causes the Lobate Lac Scale to sometimes recede," said Chris Dacus of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

But, the treatment failed.

The infection spread and it's drying out the branches and making them brittle.

Crews cut down branches that could be dangerous. Now arborists say other trees are next and they need to go as soon as possible.

The fast spreading plant disease could kill all the trees in the area.

The city says crew have to wait until this parking lot is completely paved until they can start the heavy cutting and completely take down those trees.

It's not just a Kapiolani problem. The beautiful banyans in Thomas Square are infected.

Arborists treated 385 banyan trees on Oahu within the last year, but there seems to be no near clear end in sight.

"The only answer will be a bio control…finding an organism in its natural habitat that keeps it in check. I'm not aware that there's in the state working on the Lobate Lac Scale," said Dacus.

The city landscape architect aims to first protect iconic banyans and those on a main street.

The trees will be removed within 1 to 2 months. That is when the Honolulu Zoo's parking lot pavement project is expected to be completed.

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