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Albizias: The Problem with these “Money Trees” in Hawaii

Years ago, my father planted a hibiscus in front of our home on Sherman Ave. After about 20 years struggling in Florida sand, it finally grew about 5 feet high. Needless to say, he was completely awestruck when he saw how effortlessly things grow in Hawaii’s rich, volcanic soil.

The word “volunteer” takes on a whole new meaning in the context of our tropical agriculture. Fact is, it takes more effort to control growth than start it, and when local folks and tree trimmers refer to “money trees,” they are definitely not referring to the same thing!

Idea go

Artwork courtesy Idea go/freedigitalphotos.net

Anyone who has taken a drive along Highway 132 through the “tree tunnel” knows how beautiful Albizias can be. When it comes to potential money pits, beauty is definitely only skin deep when it comes to these behemoths. Cutting them is really not a matter of “if” but “when.” They not only grow like weeds, but as we recently experienced, the brittle branches tend to break with little encouragement.

Albizias – The Beautiful Nuisance

My son-in-law, Chris Kraus of Tree Works, knows all about these “money trees.” He has seen the trunks reach over 10 feet in diameter and it’s not unusual for removal to require a crane after being allowed to grow for years unrestrained behind and between homes. I’ve had listings where they reached high above the electric poles.

According to Wikipedia, Albizias not only grow fast, they tend to colonize quickly, which explains the beautiful canopy along the roadway and in so much of our rainforest. Neighbors often want to know if they are allowed to cut limbs or roots that intrude into their property. It’s good to speak to your attorney beforehand, but I have always learned that owners can remove anything that intrudes into their property.

Sorry, you probably can’t charge the tree trunk owner for work on your property, and there’s no aloha in cutting branches and throwing rubbish into the offending neighbor’s yard. Besides, it’s not legal to do so. Keep in mind that some associations reserve the right to cut and bill for tree removal.

When is Your Tree My Problem?

There is case law that suggests that an owner could be held liable for property damage which occurs as a result of broken branches or fallen trees. Mederios v Honomu Sugar (1912) suggests that when an “owner knows or should know that his tree constitutes a danger, he is liable if it causes personal injury or property damage on or off of his property.” If owners know there’s a potential problem, they are duty bound to correct it before damage or injury occurs.

While Albizias might be the biggest, they certainly aren’t the only “money tree” that can quickly turn into “money pits” on our gorgeous Hawaii Island. Knowing how the flora (and fauna) can impact ownership is just another good reason to find an agent who understands how the need to harness the jungle can severely impact your purchase in paradise!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at denise@hawaiilife.com or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

April 24, 2014

Denise, thanks for writing about albizia trees. There are many of them on the 485 acre parcel I have listed in North Kohala and while it is not likely they will intrude on any of the neighbors, the basic information on their reputation is really useful for my potential buyers.

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

April 24, 2014

Denise, thanks for writing about albizia trees. There are many of them on the 485 acre parcel I have listed in North Kohala and while it is not likely they will intrude on any of the neighbors, the basic information on their reputation is really useful for my potential buyers.

kristina

May 4, 2014

These trees have started to take root here in Maui too-
it is scary how fast they grow-and spread.
Thank you!

kristina

May 4, 2014

These trees have started to take root here in Maui too-
it is scary how fast they grow-and spread.
Thank you!

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