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It's a TreeFest

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island , Kauai , Maui , Oahu
Nov 17, 2008

My husband’s last words when he left for work this morning were, “Don’t buy too much.”

The man knows me well.  He knows I am like a kid in a candy store every November when it comes to Arbor Day.  Last year, because it was raining and the turnout was low, I returned home with a whopping 24 trees.  That meant 24 holes for him to dig.
But I’m not the only child when it comes to trees.

In Hawaii, we’ve turned Arbor Day into Arbor Weekend.  Today, the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife held its annual plant sale—their 40th.  Back in 1968, most of the plants sold (at 10 cents apiece) were Norfolk Island pine, monkeypod and mango—all introduced species, some now considered invasive.  These days, DOFAW stocks natives, especially threatened and endangered plants.

For example:  I filled my truck today with ma’o hau hele, an endangered hibiscus and the state flower; hau kauhiwi, another rare hibiscus; ‘akia, a groundcover; and ‘ilima, a bush which produces a tiny flower used for stringing lei.  All these came with numbered tags for authenticity, like adoption papers in the days of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.  Because these plants are federally listed, the government keeps tabs on what they sell, how many and where they go.

I also picked up a couple puakenikeni trees.  These ornamentals are not considered threatened or endangered, but they are culturally significant to Hawaii for their use in making lei, and I love their wildly fragrant flower.

Today’s take numbered 11 pots.  Not too extravagant in my opinion.  The majority of their care comes in planting—my husband digs the holes, and I fill them.  After that, native plants pretty much take care of themselves, which is just one reason why I love them.

Tomorrow is the free tree give-away.  Kou, ohia lehua, koa.  I also heard they will have lama, and I’ve had my eye out for that tree for a while now.  (I’ll try to restrain myself.)

Here’s a picture of a native plant from my yard that’s blooming.  It’s an alula and has a crazy history behind it.  Horticulturalists performed heroic feats to save this endangered species—like hanging from helicopters to hand pollinate it.  Crazy.


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