Relatives staying for the Holidays

As the holidays fast approach, we must honor those grand traditions of putting up decorations, sending out photos of your “antler and sweater” festooned family, and eating all the delicious holiday meals. Most importantly, we must revel in the sudden uptick of stress induced letters to Dear Abbey about the headache of relatives staying over for the holidays! I kid, of course, but lest you think this is solely a hominid problem, I give you exhibit A…

Cackling Goose


At today’s workday over at Paepae O He’eia, we noticed a lone Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii). We were told that it had been hanging out at the fishpond for a good week and a half already. Cackling geese nest in the far north of the new world and are occasional winter visitors here in Hawai’i. Not sure if the lack of a white collar is diagnostic, but I’m assuming this is subspecies minima. With the mallard in the foreground as scale, we can see that this species is much smaller than the ubiquitous Canadian Goose (Branta canadensis) of the mainland.

With its smaller size, a cackling goose can easily be mistaken for the Nene (Branta sandvicensis). One easy way to tell the relatives apart is by looking at the neck…


… on adult nene, the white patch goes all the way down the neck with a distinctive “furrowing” pattern. (The 3 other nene pictured are subadults).

By the way, Nene ohana, the cackling goose was eating all the food for the ducks and chickens at the fishpond. Hope your pantry is stocked! Don’t say that I didn’t warn you…

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #31: Cyanea asarifolia

cyanea asarifolia

Cyanea asarifolia

  • Hawaiian Name: Haha
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: Kaua’i (Anahola stream)
  • Date photographed: 8/29/2014
  • Ease of viewing: Cultivated
  • *Identification: Form- Shrub, 0.3-1 m tall Leaves- cordiform, blades 8.5-10.5 cm long, 7-8 cm wide, base cordate. Flower- calyx lobes dentiform, 0.51 mm long; corolla white with purple longitudinal stripes, 20-22 mm long, 3-3.5 mm wide.
  • My notes: There really aren’t enough photos out on the internet of this species which is a shame. This Kaua’i Cyanea is certainly one of the more distinctive looking of the genus. I can’t say I know of any that have heart shaped leaves like this guy. Awesome plant, I felt very privileged to photograph it at the greenhouse.
  • Links: Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, UH Botany, Native Hawaiian Plants- Cyanea
  • Additional Pics:

Cyanea asarifolia leaf

Cyanea asarifolia underside

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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The myth. The legend. Wailupe


How can I properly frame this? On O’ahu, few places have intrigued me as much as Wailupe. A lot of it has to do with its historical association with the scientific inquiry of Hawaiian biota. Some of it is because of the native assemblage the valley still retains. But I think a lot of it has to do with that same ole recurring theme here at Studia Mirabilium: Sharing the Planet. Here are some awesome native forests in a valley that Hillebrand once roamed. And it’s all right behind urban Honolulu…

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Kuli’ou’ou plants

'Ohi'a flowers

We went on a hike to check out the plant life of Kuli’ou’ou Valley. It was impressive to see the diversity still left in such a commonly hiked area.

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #30: Clermontia lindseyana

C lindseyana form

Clermontia lindseyana

  • Hawaiian Name: ‘Oha wai
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: East Maui, Hawai’i (Windward Mauna Kea, Ka’u, South Kona)
  • Date photographed: 8/23/2013
  • Ease of viewing: Outplanted
  • *Identification: Form- Terrestrial shrubs or trees 2.5-6 m tall. Leaves- oblanceolate or elliptic; blades 13-24 cm long, 3.8-6.5 cm wide; margins callose-crenulate; petioles 2.5-7 cm long, pubescent. Flower- Perinath green or rarely tinged purplish outside, white or cream internally, 55-65 mm long, 9-18 mm wide, pubescent
  • Phylogenetic comments: Clermontia lindseyana is part of a polytomy of species who’s center of radiation seems to be the Big Island.
  • My notes: Working with Baron at the Hakalau greenhouse to help with this species was a real treat. Hiking out and seeing outplanted individuals growing vigorously was all the more satisfying because of it.
  • Links: Clermontia lindseyana 5year Review (pdf), Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, UH Botany, Native Hawaiian Plants- Clermontia; Givnish TJ, Bean GJ, Ames M, Lyon SP, Sytsma KJ (2013) Phylogeny, Floral Evolution, and Inter-Island Dispersal in Hawaiian Clermontia (Campanulaceae) Based on ISSR Variation and Plastid Spacer Sequences. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62566. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062566;
  • Reference: Pender, Richard “Flora trait evolution and pollination ecology in the Hawaiian lobeliad genus Clermontia (Campanulaceae)” Diss. U. of Hawaii, 2013, print
  • Additional Pics:

C lindseyana flowers

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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Snapshot: Deep Time Conservation

Columbian Mammoth

Whenever I’m in Los Angeles, I have to stop by the La Brea Tar Pits (well, asphalt seeps). Actually, NEED to stop by is more appropriate. As odd as this may sound to some people, La Brea is my “Happy Place”. For whatever metaphysical persuasion you are so incline, my soul is filled whenever I walk amongst those American giants. When it comes to my biogeographic sensibilities, nothing clarifies and centers it like La Brea.

But for the purposes of this post, La Brea really highlights my… intuition when it comes to Deep Time. I think for many people, they look up at these fossils and think “Wow, look at all these ancient, prehistoric fossils! I can’t even fathom the world that they lived in.” To me, these fossils, are our contemporaries. Their world is our world. It is fathomable to me.

Another, perhaps more poignant way to look at it is with recent extinction. We lament that the po’ouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma) and the baiji (Lipotes vexilifer) went extinct as recently as 2004 and 2007 respectively. We wonder if we could have done more so that they could still be around today. The fabled Tasmanian Wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was alive within living memory; the last known individual died in 1936. It tugs particular hard at the heartstrings to know that it was sooo close to surviving to the present day. When I look at that Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) at the Page Museum, I feel exactly the same way. The amazing American Megafauna, so taxonomically diverse and unique, was sooo close to making it to the present day.

I live in Hawai’i, a place were the biota has gone through unbelievable turnover in the past few hundred years. How has that awareness plus my nostalgia brought on by Deep Time not crushed my soul? Why am I not crying everyday, lamenting about the birds we lost? Because intimacy with Deep Time works both ways. If 10,000 years ago is now, then 10,000 years in the future is also now. Can we work to rehabilitate native ecosystems in 20 years? It will be awfully hard. What about restoring a native forest within a modern grant cycle of 2 years on average? Probably not. But 10,000 years? Now we’re on to something. When you’re working in conservation and you’re liberated of time constraints… it is pretty damn hopeful.

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Snapshot: Cyanea’s African Relatives

Africa. Where the Pleistocene Megafauna still lives. While it’s easy to focus on all the large animals, Africa holds a specific interest for the Hawaiian plant nerd in me. For research (Givnish, 2008) shows that some of the Hawaiian Lobeliads closest relatives may surprisingly be a clade of African montane lobeliads.

Luckily, long time Manoa Cliff supporters and occasional volunteers Jim and Cindy Waddington recently came back from a trip to the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. They were able to find and take photos of the cousins to our Hawaiian Lobeliads.

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Wow! These lobelias of the Ethiopian Highlands are impressive! This is probably Lobelia rhynchopetalum. It, like the Hawaiian endemic sect. Galeatella, is semelparous. If you think it is awe-inspiring vegetatively, wait till you see it in full infloresence:

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Excuse me while I pick my jaw off the ground! Maui might have Lobelia gloria-montis, but this is pretty darn incredible. Let’s close with an awesome shot I found on wikipedia with an endangered Ethiopia Wolf (Canis simensis).

via Wikipedia Commons

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