KAILUA-KONA — When Gabby Gaspar moved into his Lunapule Road home 16 years ago, there was a large, unruly ficus benjamina tree in his front yard.
Also known as a weeping fig or weeping Chinese Banyan, the tree is native to India and Malaysia. It is one of the most commonly seen potted trees in homes and offices across the nation.
The ornamental thrives in tropical climates and can grow up to 100 feet high and 60 feet wide — and in Kona, it grows very quickly. It didn’t take long for the power company HELCO to knock on his door, wanting to chop it back because it was encroaching on the power lines.
Instead, the former Honsador Lumber employee had a vision.
He set up scaffolding and proceeded to turn the wild beast into a perfectly manicured rectangular treehouse.
People from all over came to see it.
“So many people stop and take pictures of that tree,” said Gaspar. “We’ve had busloads of Japanese tourist that stop and want to have their picture taken with it. They love that kind of landscaping.”
Gaspar, with help from members of his church, trims the rapidly growing tree every four months to keep the symmetrical shape and prevent it from hitting the power lines.
After climbing a ladder attached to the trunk, one enters a magical, mesmerizing space.
A simple plywood floor is surrounded by meticulously pruned shiny green ficus leaf walls.
There is no ceiling in this treehouse paradise. One could lay back and take in the clouds passing or spend the evening star gazing, oblivious to the passing traffic.
Alas, it’s no longer occupied as it had been over the years. Gaspar’s grandchildren, who used to hunker down in the unique living space, have outgrown the fortress of their childhoods.
But Gaspar said he likes that people still enjoy his creation, even if it’s just stopping to check it out quickly.
“I’ll keep it going,” he said. “God willing.”