As Hawaii begins receiving its annual influx of Christmas trees from the mainland, a plant nursery on Oahu is selling a locally grown, native alternative to celebrate the holidays. Alahee trees, which grow in forests across much of the state, have branches in a symmetrical pattern that’s similar to traditional Christmas trees. The branches are thick enough for ornaments, and the trees grow well in pots so they can be used inside and outside.
Rick Barboza, who co-founded Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a commercial nursery that sells Native Hawaiian and Polynesian-introduced plants, has grown more than 200 alahee this year. He said he was inspired to market them as Christmas trees because they can be reused for generations.
“Growing up, I never liked the idea of buying a dead tree,” Barboza said. “There’s nothing you can do to revive that tree.”
The idea to sell alahee came from Barboza’s frustration over the practice of buying a nonnative Christmas tree every year just to toss it in the green bin once the holidays were over. He didn’t like the option of buying a plastic version, so he scanned his nursery to find a tree that grew in a radial pattern similar to fir or pine trees. Alahee was the best choice, he said.
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