Editor’s note: Vanessa Wolf’s meandering thoughts are purely for entertainment purposes and don’t necessarily represent the views of Maui Now.
By Vanessa Wolf
Seems the Lahaina Banyan Tree is about to turn 140.
How do we know this?
Well, legend has it the tree was originally planted by the sheriff on April 24th, 1873 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Protestant Mission in Lahaina.
But is that really the “birth” of the tree?
You see, the tale continues to explain, “when the Banyan Tree was first planted, it was just eight feet tall.”
We don’t mean to get all prickly and sweat the details, but does that really constitute origin?
Granted, there are many sides to the birth debate.
Does life begin in the berry of the parent banyan or in the hundreds of seeds inside that? Does it start with first germination or when little sprouts begin to get leaves months later?
Heck, by the time you get to sapling stage, we’re already talking about a tree that’s at least a year old…arguably. And eight feet tall!? That’s more like gangly tween than newborn sprout.
To further cloud the situation, what if it was grafted from a cutting? And how on earth does one assign “age” in such a scenario and who are we to play God and what’s next? Cloning? Or is grafting already the same thing? How about splicing banyan trees and edible figs together and adding a little rabbit DNA to make it soft and furry? Oh, the humanity!
Sufficed to say, all this dickering and futuristic banyan tree prophesying gives one a headache, so let’s get back to talking about how to properly celebrate your 140-ish year old banyan tree’s “birthday” in style.
The first thing you need to know is that suitably honoring a Ficus Benghalensis of such advanced years is going to be spendy. Plan to sell some stock, take out a second mortgage, or look into some kind of black market organ sales.
Traditional 40th anniversary gifts decree the giving of a ruby, and rubies ain’t cheap. In fact, some basic Googling will teach you that a one-karat ruby costs twice as much as a diamond of the same size.
The news only gets bleaker. Add to the ruby purchase the seemingly mandatory 100th anniversary gift of a $10,000 diamond, and whoa.
Who made up these rules? Most likely the same folks that decree men need to cough up three months’ salary in exchange for something small and sparkly to prove you truly love her: DeBeers.
But we don’t know that for certain, so let’s just say it’s just one of those things that everybody agrees on, so don’t try to fight it. Take a deep breath and apply for that black Amex. You’re going to need it.
That stated, if lavishly celebrating your tree simply isn’t an option, maybe looking into his/her hobbies will provide better gift-giving clues.
The average banyan tree doesn’t get out much, but is often referred to as strangler. This is because the trees can grow on an existing tree and will climb down that host tree and eventually cut off nutrient supplies.
That’s not very nice, but to each his own.
Famous stranglers include the Hillside and Boston stranglers, but for all the information out there on them, their taste in gifts isn’t well documented. Still, one would imagine they might have enjoyed rope, leather gloves, and a few other things we won’t bother to mention because obviously these are terrible and tasteless gift ideas.
Look, the banyan tree has an unfortunate predilection for strangling, but who are we to be judging on its birthday.
How about you keep it simple and maybe leave some flowers or some compost by the trunk.
If that’s too pedestrian for your taste, consider that banyan trees are indigenous to India, where they are considered sacred.
How about something that reminds him/her of his heritage: maybe give a packet of curry powder or some papadams. Perhaps burn some nag champa incense or play the sitar.
If all else fails, nothing says “Happy birthday. You’re aging well,” quite like those words followed up with a big tree hug.
Congrats on another trip around the sun, Ficus Benghalensis. You make it look easy.
Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story or topic? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (@mauinow.com)