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  • Hundreds Of Kahuku Keiki, Jack Johnson Join Mayor To Celebrate Arbor Day

Hundreds of Kahuku keiki, Jack Johnson join Mayor to celebrate Arbor Day
Planting of nine native trees, performances, and blessings mark the annual event

O‘AHU – Amidst the dulcet mele of award-winning musician Jack Johnson, hundreds of Kahuku Elementary School keiki, community leaders, and City staff joined Mayor Rick Blangiardi to celebrate the 2023 Mayor’s Arbor Day Ceremony with the planting of nine native trees at Kahuku District Park!

The festive event, held in the home off the Red Raiders, began with a Native Hawaiian pule (blessing) and a heartfelt performance of “What a Wonderful World” by the elementary school’s 2nd grade keiki. Approximately 350 students from the entire elementary school later joined in an oli (chant) of mahalo (thanks) before placing the last bits of mulch on six Milo and three Lonomea trees freshly planted near the park’s playground.

“Much like the unparalleled natural beauty of our island home and its diverse communities, planting a variety of trees is truly one of the most uniting and rewarding actions we can take today to benefit future generations,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “Planting these trees now, at the onset of the rainy season, helps to guarantee their growth at a time when ensuring the health of our forests and natural environment is top of mind. I am so pleased with our urban forestry division for working with the community, particularly the school and community association, to accommodate their wishes for more trees at this rural park. We are excited at the prospect of additional park amenities for Kahuku in the near future.”  

This tree planting was the direct result of community concerns raised during an April 20, 2023 townhall meeting held at Lā‘ie Elementary School. In particular, those from the Kahuku Community Association, their President Sunny Unga, and representatives from the school. This meeting was part of a series of 11 townhall meetings held around O‘ahu earlier this year.

Commonly found in Hawaiian coastal areas, Milo trees are identified by their thin, heart-shaped green leaves. The flowers bloom yellow with a maroon center in the early day, and turn into a darker orange later in the day. Ranging in height from 30 to 40 feet at maturity, their canopies can spread as far as 12 feet wide. Milo means to twist or curl in Hawaiian, which may be attributed to the gnarls in the barks and branches. It is a popular shade tree, but also has many other practical uses such as its bark for cordage, wood for carving, fruit for dye, and flowers for lei.

The Lonomea tree is a beautiful, endemic soapberry native only to the islands of Oʻahu and Kauaʻi. It can reach 60 feet tall, growing relatively fast in dry and mesic forests.  It has dark, simple leaves, small white flowers, and small, olive-like fruit which can make soap or shampoo. The seeds were also used for medicinal purposes, lei, with wood occasionally used to carve spears and other tools.  Fairly easy to grow from seed, this tree prefers partial to full shade and elevations from sea level to 2,000 feet. Lonomea provides a great shade canopy and can tolerate compacted soils, making it an ideal urban landscape tree.   

With the planting of these six Milo and three Lonomea trees, we hope they will provide numerous environmental, economic, and social benefits to our island and community for generations to come! For more information on the many benefits of trees, and all of the efforts of the dedicated arborists within the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation’s Urban Forestry Division, please visit

While Arbor Day Hawaiʻi is in November, we give appreciation to trees year-round. Anyone planting trees on O‘ahu is encouraged to input that planting information into our tree planting map. Visit to provide that information and help us monitor these efforts as we work to increase our tree canopy across the island.

If you need an auxiliary aid/service, other accommodations due to a disability, or an interpreter for a language other than English in reference to this announcement, please contact the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation at (808) 768-3003 on weekdays from 7:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. or email at least three business days before the scheduled event. Without sufficient advanced notice, it may not be possible to fulfill requests.

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