Lava trees

Lava Tree State Monument is in the southeast part of the island, within half a mile of the edge of last year’s flow. As the name suggests, it has some good examples of lava trees.

Lava trees are formed when molten lava coats a tree, burning the wood, and leaving just the cooling lava shell that surrounded it. There are two ways this can happen. One is when a flow surrounds the trees and then drains away. The other way is for falling lava to cover and burn the trees.

The lava trees in Lava Tree State Monument were formed by the first of these two methods. A lava flow in 1790, as high as 11 feet, surrounded ohia trees in this part of the island, and burned the wood away. When new fissures opened soon after, the lava in this flow drained back underground, but the lava immediately surrounding the trees had cooled enough that it was already hardening, so it remained, retaining each tree’s shape in its center.

The photos show lava trees in the park, a closer view of one showing the hollow center, and a view of the hollow core where new plant life is taking hold. In some cases, this new plant life is new trees growing out of the old, hollow lava trees.

For more information about Lava Tree State Monument, go to

1 thought on “Lava trees

  1. Pingback: A tree growing out of a tree | Graham's Island

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