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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Kaua'i High bodhi tree cut down

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — Students at Kaua'i High School were shocked last week to find that the school administration had the bodhi tree on their campus chopped down.

Many were particularly dismayed because nearly half the student body, 400 students, had signed a petition asking that the tree be spared, said Amy Hutchinson, a senior and member of the school's nature club.

But school authorities, who had been reviewing options about the future of the tree for two years, said they weren't aware of the petition.

The tree was believed to be 50 or more years old. It is of the same species as the tree under which Buddha is said to have sat when he gained enlightenment. The scientific name of the tree, Ficus religiosa, recalls this history. It is variety of fig or banyan that is sometimes known as a bo tree or a peepul tree.

Some school students believe the tree was grown from a cutting taken from another tree, which itself was grown from a cutting from Buddha's original tree. Many Buddhist temples have bodhi trees that are linked in truth or legend to the original tree in India.

The Kaua'i High bodhi tree had grown huge, and its roots were damaging nearby concrete structures. Kaua'i District schools superintendent Danny Hamada said he was on the campus visiting classes last week, and heard some of the discussions about the fallen tree.

"They brought in an arborist, the Outdoor Circle and the (state) Department of Accounting and General Services. Their options were to build a root barrier, or to remove the tree and replace it with three milo trees," Hamada said. The school decided it would be better to remove the aggressive tree, he said.

Hutchinson said that students and some faculty believe their wishes were ignored by the school administration.

"The tree was a symbol for our school," she said.

But the tree is not entirely gone. Kaua'i Nursery and Landscaping, the firm that cut the tree down, took cuttings and is propagating them.

"If they want them, we'll make cuttings available," said Lelan Nishek, president of the nursery.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.