Our forests and landscapes can change quickly.
Hawaii’s endemic Erythrina Sandwichensis or Wiliwili is a colorful flowering tree of the dry forests and is prone to threats like wild boar, goats, insects, and disease. According to Jen Lawson, executive director of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, the group is responsible for protecting an area of 275 acres that protects rare and endangered shrubs and trees from wild goats and other grazing animals.
There is usually a chance to visit this little-known slice of our paradise as part of the Hawaii Island Wiliwili Festival, but due to COVID-19, Jen is encouraging people to check out the group’s website: https: www.waikoloadryforest / wiliwilifestival /, for one virtual tour and other activities. On February 12 and 13, there will be limited guided tours of the protected area from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. With the COVID restrictions in place, they encourage people to work virtually.
Get involved in this great environmental project.
The warming weather has created ideal conditions for Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii) to cause defoliation, withering, and even the death of our beloved Ohia and many other related species in the Myrtle family. About 150 species are susceptible, including mountain apple, guava, eucalyptus, callistemon, melaleuca, and rhododendron.
What if these species die? The answer is that other species fill the void, transforming forests and even our gardens.
How was it for the first Polynesian pioneers to find these islands? The forests in those earliest days of human activity were very different from what they are today. What is open grassland today was once forests. Trees like loulu palms were in abundance, but it wasn’t long before the Polynesian introduction of pigs and rats changed things radically. With the later arrival of herbivores such as goats, sheep and cattle, even more damage was done to the forests.
Today, erosion is a major problem on most of the high islands as well, and the rising ocean is swallowing up low atolls that have been home to islanders for thousands of years.
Destruction, rebirth and evolution continue to occur as our active volcanoes and climate change teach us. The moral is that we must learn to adapt to change while retaining as many good qualities from the past as we can. This is also true in light of the challenges of climate change and population growth that are causing land use problems.
Our parks and gardens reflect the intricate evolution of life and culture.
We have a wide variety of native and imported plants. By making the lush vegetation an integral part of our communities, we are helping to combat pollution and global warming, and make life more comfortable.
As an individual, one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to plant trees. There are a number of trees that can help achieve this purpose. The best include natives like the Loulu Palms, Ohia, Hala, Wiliwili, Hoawa, Alahe’e, and A’ali’i.
Other plants, such as the beach and Naupaka Mountain, are attractive to many birds and also make good ornamental plants for a garden. Flowers from Ohia, Koa, Hau, Milo, and Mamane may even attract some native nectar-eating birds such as Iiwi, Amakihi, Apapane, and Elepaio.
The hala tree or pandanus is another one of interest and beauty. It can be grown from sea level to an altitude of at least 3,000 feet. It adapts to wet or dry places. The leaves were used for walls, floor mats, and thatched roofs. Today artists weave purses, tote bags, and hats with them.
Another group of plants to consider are those brought by the Polynesians such as coconut, kukui, mountain apple, banana, sugar cane, bamboo, and breadfruit.
Remember, our gardens can and should reflect the best of Hawaiian culture, although they are likely to be different in the years to come.