This 100-year old tree, planted on Hawaii's first Arbor
Day, makes a shady corner in this Manoa neighborhood.
In 1872, legislation and other legal actions were being sought
in the United States to prevent the plundering of the forests.
Following J. Sterling Morton’s Arbor Day success of planting
one million trees in Nebraska, Conservationists immediately saw
its merit and encouraged other states to follow. President
Roosevelt officially proclaimed Arbor Day on April 10, 1872.
In his proclamation, he declared it a day whereby school children
all over the United States might plant trees, sing songs and
recitations appropriate to the occasion.
100th Anniversary of Arbor Day in Hawai‘i
Arbor Day officially came to the Territory of Hawaii in 1905. Then
Governor Carter proclaimed November 3, 1905 as Arbor Day and recommended
that all public schools participate with part of the day devoted
to planting trees and shrubs on school grounds.
95 of the 154 schools in the Territory participated that first
year and nearly 3,000 trees were planted. Private schools and citizens
also joined in the celebration and planted another 600 trees. 3,554
trees from the government nursery (DOFAW) were given out to schools
across all the Islands and $770 was collected to fund $5
prizes to the grades with the best maintained Arbor Day trees planted
At the High School on Oahu, Governor Carter took part in planting
a breadfruit tree while four hundred students sang tree-themed songs.
At the Royal School, more songs were sung including “The Grandpa
Tree” and “The Cocoa Palm.” Each of Royal School’s
18 classrooms planted a tree.
Kaiulani School planted 15 golden shower trees. A sealed jar containing
slips of paper with the names of every one of the six hundred children
of the school was buried at the base of one of these shower trees.
At Oahu College, now Punahou School, the main avenues were divided
into 7 sections, each planted with its own species. They included
Poinciana regia, yellow Poinciana, eucalyptus robusta, Monterey cypress,
Grevillea and Java plum. Over at Kamehameha School the girls planted
Poinciana regia trees.
Queen Liliuokalani planted a tree on Arbor Day in 1906.
At Kaahumanu School, children talked about trees and each class
planted a tree. While at Kalihi-Waena School no mention was made
about the program or type of trees planted but the paper did report
that the participants dined on a luncheon consisting of chicken consommé,
roast capon, new potatoes, green peas, corn, tomatoes and salads
In addition to school plantings, trees were planted at the Public
Square in Lahaina and at Mooheau Park in Hilo. On Oahu, shade trees
were planted by the Waialea, Kaimuki and Palolo Improvement Club. .
The following year, Lahainaluna School was honored with the presence
of Queen Liliuokalani at their Arbor Day tree planting. The Queen
planted the final tree, a royal palm. She told the boys “that
as that tree grows up in strength and beauty, so I hope that they
will grow also, strong and noble, and that they will be a pride to
their parents to the school and the country”. Festivities continued
with tea, cakes and song. According to the newspaper report, the
Queen sang one of her own compositions which was “a great treat
In 100 years between the first Hawaii Arbor Day and now, countless
thousands of trees have been planted and their beauty celebrated.
The Hawaiian Electric/Kaulunani Partnership
A young tree-hugger picks out a tree to take
home at the first HECO/Kaulunani event in 1993.
The custom of giving away seedlings for Arbor Day began in 1993
when Honolulu graphic artist Cindy Turner enlisted the support of
the Hawaiian Electric Company and Kaulunani, the Urban Forestry Program
of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. Hawaiian Electric was a regular client of Cindy's firm
of Turner & de Vries, and she approached Carl Myatt, then director
of Hawaiian Electric's Corporate Communications Department, to discuss whether
Hawaiian Electric employees would volunteer to help distribute trees to the public
on Arbor Day. Hawaiian Electric came aboard because the giveaway supports the
utility's interest in planting the right tree in the right place
to avoid outages from tree limbs growing too close to overhead lines
and because the cooling benefit of trees can reduce energy use.
Cindy also approached Teresa Trueman-Madriaga of Kaulunani about the Arbor Day
giveaway, and soon a partnership was established between Hawaiian Electric and Kaulunani
that remains active today.
The Hawaiian Electric Arbor Day partnership has grown to include the Urban Garden Center,
part of the University of Hawaii's Cooperative Extension Service at the College
of Tropical Agriculture and Research. Growing 2,000 seedlings that are healthy
and suitable for distribution is big task. It occupies the time of a dozen or
more volunteers for many months each year prior to Arbor Day and more than a
hundred volunteers on Arbor Day itself. Arborist Kevin Eckert, who was Hawaiian Electric's
forester in the mid-1990's, played a key role in shaping the list of giveaway
trees to include its prominent feature of including many native Hawaiian species.
From its beginning of offering free seedlings at one site on Oahu, the Hawaiian Electric Arbor
Day project has grown to include distribution sites each Arbor Day on all of
the major islands. Since 1993, more than 20,000 trees representing some 50 species
have found their way into the yards and gardens and onto the lanais of Hawaii's