12 large albizias to be removed at Manoa campus

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HONOLULU (AP) — A dozen large albizia trees will be removed from University of Hawaii's Manoa campus to protect a rare species.

The invasive trees are described as the fastest-growing in the world. They were introduced to Hawaii in 1917 and have proliferated across the state, to the detriment of the native forest. They were also responsible for extensive damage on the Big Island when Tropical Storm Iselle blew through last month.

The plan is to remove 12 of the largest albizia trees in the state because the university wants to protect the Lyon Arboretum's rarest plants under the towering trees, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://ow.ly/BCigs ) reported Wednesday.

The rare plants include a wide range of palm tree species from islands across the Pacific and at least one from Borneo found nowhere else in the United States.

The albizia trees were planted in the arboretum at least 85 years ago. The full-grown trees range in height from 130 feet to 205 feet, with the largest having a trunk that's nearly 11 feet around, officials said.

The albizia, or Falcataria moluccana, is native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia. They were brought to Hawaii in an effort to protect watersheds but they alter the soil chemistry, allowing other weeds to take over native habitats.

Their weak wood makes them prone to breaking, with long limbs that can drop without warning, said Carol Kwan, a certified arborist and consultant to the project.

Iselle toppled hundreds of albizia trees in the Puna district.

Kwan had worried about the $1-million project when two hurricanes were headed to the islands last month. But Oahu escaped the brunt of the storms, allowing the project to move forward at the university-managed arboretum.

"I was saying quite a few prayers," Kwan said.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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