Samoan word of the Day: November 28:
Aoa- Banyon Tree
The Banyon Tree is home to many birds and creatures, including the pretty dove manuma.
Banyans today are under threat in American Samoa. Many were severely damaged by cyclones in
1990-91. Many others have been cut down, and more are threatened by continued development,
particularly in the Tafuna Plain. Some of the most magnificent banyans that still stand have been made
into gigantic trash barrels, their hollow trunks filled with mounds of used diapers and rusting cans. This
garbage is sometimes burned, which can kill the banyan even if that is not intended.
In Samoa, we have two different kinds of native banyan trees, both called āoa. One kind (Ficus prolixa)
becomes a huge tree, with an enormous spreading trunk that seems to be a twisted net of many smaller
trunks. This kind of banyan has green fruit. The stronghold of this kind of banyan in American Samoa
was the Tafuna Plain, where hundreds of the huge trees used to grow. Today, only a small fraction
remain. Most have been cut down to make room for the uncontrolled development in this part of Tutuila.
Fortunately, a few magnificent trees still survive. The other kind of āoa (Ficus obliqua) is usually much smaller and does not have such a spreading form. Its trunk usually looks more â€œnormalâ€, though it may
have a hollow inside. This type of banyan seems to favor cliffs and steep slopes, although it can also be
found on flat land. It doesn't always start life as a strangler, but sometimes grows up by itself. The
easiest way to recognize this kind of āoa is its fruit, which is orange or red when ripe.
There is also an introduced kind of banyan tree in Samoa, the pulu. This tree, originally from Asia, is
usually planted along the coast in villages; a large one grows next to the public market in Fagatogo. Pulu
trees differ from āoa trees by their much larger leaves and larger, fuzzy red fruit. Although pulu are
handsome trees that are useful for stabilizing our coasts, their fruit