Most visitors to Lanai head straight to the island’s beautiful beaches. But Lanai’s misty uplands also hold an unexpected site – a forest of Cook Island Pines that gives the island its own unique sense of tropical beauty.
Lanai City is rung by rows of narrow, towering pines. So, too, are the misty slopes that lead to Lanai’s highest point. The road from Hulopoe Beach to Lanai City is also flanked by pine trees. The trees are so prevalent, and so silently stunning, that even Lanai’s high school sports teams are lovingly known as the Pine Lads and Lasses.
Pine trees, however, aren’t native to Hawaii, and the first pine tree planted on Lanai was in 1878. Having survived for over 140 years, that strong, towering, Norfolk Island pine now fronts the Lodge at Koele, which is the same spot where ranch manager George Munro had the idea in 1911 to cover the island in pines.
Though he only lived here for 20 years, George Munro significantly shaped Lanai’s history. He was hired to help run the island’s ranch, but arrived on an island that had become arid and was in need of rain.
In a unique twist of fate, Munro discovered that Lanai’s Norfolk pine was extracting moisture straight out of the clouds. Since clouds would frequently gather in the uplands, but rarely drop any rain, Munro ordered that pine trees be planted to pull water out of the sky. Hundreds of Cook Island pines were then imported and planted on Lanai. Many of these pines are still visible today.
Not only did George Munro’s plan actually work, but it worked so well that 100 years later the island still uses pines to extract water from the sky. Because the moisture drips onto the ground, it’s absorbed by the soil and is later tapped as part of Lanai’s groundwater.
But just how much water can trees really create? It’s believed that a single pine tree can collect up to 200 gallons a day—which adds up when you consider that the island is covered in thousands of pines.
The next time you’re surrounded by Lanai’s Cook Island Pines, whether hiking the Koloiki Ridge Trail or strolling through Lanai City, enjoy the powerful pines and their trunks that are serving as 100-foot straws to keep the island alive.