Snapshot: Korean Swallows


One nice thing for me when I travel is seeing how local fauna have adapted to the human condition. While this is a common sight in many parts of the world, Hirundinidae (Swallows, Martins) aren’t found in Hawai’i. Many species have a long benign relationship with people due to their superb aerial hawking of unwanted insects. I’m not an expect but this might be a common Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). The very name highlights its relationship with people and their structures.

But it’s one thing to nest in a rural, undeveloped barn.

swallow nest

This pair decided to nest in the decidedly unrural Jeonju Bus Terminal! Buses honking, people jostling, luggage thrown about, yet there were enough food and resources that these birds thought this was the perfect place to raise a family. Sharing the planet at its finest!

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Snapshot: Toothbrush Fern


This dainty little endemic fern is ‘oali’i makali’i (Schizaea robusta). I came across it near the summit of Konahuanui. Interestingly, the frond is mostly made up of just the stipe; the blades are only found the very distal portion. This rather unique look gives it another colloquial name: the toothbrush fern. Keep an eye for it on wet summit and boggy areas.

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Snapshot: Psychotria longissima

Psychotria longissima

So here are some seedlings from a plant with uncertain affiliations. Currently it is part of Psychotria kaduana. But it was originally described as Psychotria longissima and has a much longer, droopy inflorescence. There is much work to be done with the genetics of the native Psychotria radiation here in Hawai’i. It remains to be seen whether this is a distinct population or not.

In the meantime, I’m playing it safe. While one of the more well known supposed P. longissima trees flowers consistently, last year was the first time I saw that tree produce fruit. With the expertise and TLC from the seed lab, they germinated!

outplanted Psychotria longissima


They’ve been in the ground a few weeks but they’re looking good! So, whether or not it is a genetically distinct population, there will be more droopy kopiko on Pu’u ‘Ohia.

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Mt. Ka’ala: A walk to remember

Trematolobelia kaalae

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Sebastian? You’re comparing a hike into some of the most intact native forest on O’ahu to a sappy Nicholas Sparks book?! There are relictual native species in the area that the general public rarely gets to see and this is how we get to hear about them… wait, don’t tell me you cried?” Well…yes, yes I did…

Continue reading

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #35: Trematolobelia macrostachys

Trematolobelia macrostacys

Trematolobelia macrostachys

  • Conservation Status: Apparently secure
  • Distribution: O’ahu (Ko’olau), Moloka’i, Maui
  • Date photographed: 11/15/2012
  • Ease of viewing: Difficult
  • *Identification: Form– Treelets 1-4 m tall Leaves– linear to oblanceolate, blades 15-36 cm long, 0.8-3.1 cm wide. Flower– calyx lobes triangular, 3-17 mm long, 1-3 mm wide; corolla various shades of pink, subbilabiate, 43-73 mm long.
  • Phylogenetic comments: Trematolobelia macrostacys is the only species in the endemic genus found on multiple islands. The genus itself is thought to be the sister clade of Lobelia sect. Galeatella
  • My notes: Once again my O’ahu love is showing. The first plants discovered in this genus were from the summits behind Honolulu by George T. Lay sometime between 1826-1827. It is neat for me to think the same areas where I see them now are the same areas where they were first scientifically described all those years ago. Unlike other capsular lobeliads, the fruits don’t dehisce by loculicidal slits, but by irregular pores throughout the fruit walls. The dry fruit have been colorfully called “pepper shakers” in some circles (i.e. my nerdy plant friends). T. macrostachys typically flowers from September through November. It is always a spectacular side bonus to any summit hike to come across one in full infloresence!
  • Links: Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands
  • Refs: Lammers, Thomas G. “Revision of the endemic Hawaiian genus Trematolobelia (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae).” Brittonia 61.2 (2009): 126-143.
  • Additional Photos:

Trematolobelia macrostacys

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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Snapshot: Lazarus, the Clermontia

clermontia keiki

Clermontia kakeana is still a fairly common lobeliad. Except on O’ahu; it is  not easy to see  on pretty much any trail here. Tantalus has a fairly healthy population of it. I’d like to think we at the Manoa Cliff restoration have done our darnedest to keep it that way.

There were a couple plants that died a few years back that I wish I got more fruit from. Every time I checked before, they never had any fruit. It was disappointing that the last time I checked they were just skeletons for plants.

While we do have some representation from those plants, I had always hoped to have more. And it turns out, tucked in the back of our colleague’s refrigerator was a little bag of seeds collected from those very plants. From 2010 though. I was skeptical that those 5 year old seeds would germinate, but imagine my surprise when I saw this. There’s “plants vs. zombies” and then there’s zombie plant. Score 1 (more like a few hundred) for team lobeliad!

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Spot the different Rollandia species of Konahuanui!

Cyanea humboltdiana

haha mili'ohu 2

So, this new species Cyanea konahuanuiensis (Haha mili’ohu), how does it look different from other Cyanea spp? There are actually a few species of Cyanea spp. that live in the same general area as haha mili’ohu. Let’s take a look. The top picture is Cyanea humboltdiana the bottom is said C. konahuanuiensis. Incidentally, these two are definitely sympatric, the 2 plants themselves are a few hundred feet from each other.

humboldtiana leaf


miliohu leaf


Again, top is C. humboldtiana, bottom is Haha mili’ohu. Notice how much more hairy the leaves of haha mili’ohu are compared to  C. humboldtiana. As you can see above, both surfaces are quite hairy.

humboldtiana buds


miliohu inflorescence

There is a lot going on here. Both species have long, pendulous infloresences, but again C. konahuanuiensis‘ entire floral structure is much hairier than C. humboldtiana. As for the flowers themselves, notice too how much larger the calyx (the triangular petals surrounding the colorful flower) are on haha mili’ohu than C. humboldtiana.

humboldtiana keiki




Even the keiki look different!

And there are more Cyanea spp, specifically in the Rollandia radiation, that live in the general area.

cyanea calycina

This Cyanea calycina is maybe a quarter mile away. The leaves and flowers are not as hairy, floral structure is shorter and less droopy, and calyx are chunkier.



This Cyanea koolauensis too is roughly a quarter mile away. Its leaves are much more glabrous and a lot skinnier.

Cyanea crispa flowers


cyanea crispa flowers


And Cyanea crispa is found nearby too. Leaves can get much, much larger on C. crispa vs. C. konahuanuiensis. And again, the entire floral structure is very different.

So there we have it, a quick visual guide to some of the differences between Cyanea konahuanuiensis and the other closely related species that live nearby. Of course, a more exhaustive list is found in the paper. (Hint, hint, hint)

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