I didn’t bring a camera on a quick, impromptu trip to Maui, but I just want to say that Hosmer Grove is incredible! Sure, it’s mostly alien eucalyptus and pine trees that were planted, but… wow! What birdlife! Considering on O’ahu we have maybe 2 i’iwi (Vestaria coccinea) left, seeing them in large numbers was awe-inspiring.
Finally, a proper hiking post. I’d rather not turn this place into just a quarterly report. Anyway, I was able to slip away for an all day hike above Honolulu. And once again, the bounty of the mountains never ceases to amaze me…
Here in Hawaii, it is said that the upland forest is called the wao akua: the realm of the gods. Few people entered the forests. Where people did live was called the wao kanaka: the realm of man. But I had also heard of the wao ilima: the realm of ilima (Sida fallax). After coming across this open meadow of almost pure ilima I can see why there were places with this name.
For me, seeing things side by side can really help clarify things. Here are the leaves of the different ‘Oha wai known with certainty from O’ahu. From left to right: Clermontia kakeana, Clermontia oblongifolia and Clermontia perscifolia. The leaves are all from plants roughly about a year and a half in age.
Immediately appreciably is the greater size of C. kakeana. But as we look closer, other differences become more apparent. C. persicifolia is a much deeper shade of green. On the live plant, the leaves are much glossier too.
Looking at C. persicifolia, we can see that the venations is reticulated and also impressed giving the upper leaf surface much more texture.
For the Clermontia oblongifolia population on Pu’u ‘Ohia, the petioles tend to be much longer than the other 2 species. In this population, perhaps because of this, C. oblongifolia leaves tend to be much droopier.
The abaxial surfaces are interesting as well. Again on C. persicifolia, the venation is much more conspicuous. What we can’t see from this picture (Still working on purchasing a macro lens) is that underside of C. kakeana leaves are quite hairy. The other 2 are much more glabrous.
And of course, most traits in nature are on a gradient. I’m sure you’ll run into an ‘oha wai on the trails that doesn’t quite fit these basic keys. Still I hope this helps with id’ing these awesome members of the forests of O’ahu.
The new year is always a good time for reflection. I have realized how much I’ve been hiking over the past few years. And I’ve been blessed to see really cool things on these excursions. Bottom line, even with close to 1 million people, O’ahu is not some lost cause… it still has great natural sites and sights. So to highlight that, here is my completely arbitrary top ten native biota seen on the trails of O’ahu. (I’m only including stuff that I’ve seen from fairly well known trails… so anyone can visit them!)
|| Iliahi grove -Kaunala Trail
Purely an aesthetic choice. Seeing these large sandalwood with grass underneath, it looked like a shot straight out of a landscaping magazine.
|| Dwarf ‘Ohia -’Aiea Ridge Terminus
Normally towering trees, this variety is stunted. They look more like an awesome ground cover.
||Achatinella mustelina -Wai’anae Kai Trail
Who knew turning over a new leaf could be so much fun?
|| Manu-O-Ku -Honolulu!
Perhaps these birds just like late night Korean BBQ. Whatever the case, none of the main islands has as robust population of Manu-O-Ku than those in and around Honolulu.
||Lehua Papa -Moanalua Middle Ridge
Another aesthetic choice, this Metrosideros rugosa just had such a pretty crown. And such a dramatic setting too.
|| Holei -Hawai’i Loa Ridge Trail
If it were up to me, I’d nominate the Hawai’i Loa Ridge Trail as the best trail to learn about native plants. From dry shrublands to mesic forest to wet summit, this trail has it all. And it has large individuals of fairly rare plants too.
|| Cyanea superba exclosure -Mokule’ia Trail
Visiting one of the most spectacular of the Hawai’i lobeliads is a treat onto itself. But the exclosure also has the neat arborescent Euphorbia herbstii… marvelous!
|| Clermontia kakeana – Manoa Cliff Trail
So yes, disclaimer, I am part of the group that works on the restoration efforts at the Manoa Cliff Trail. Perhaps I’m tooting my own horn. Still, I’m willing to bet you’ll be hard-pressed to find this majestic plant on any Ko’olau trail.
||Laysan Albatross -Ka’ena Point
Albatross are some of the most beautiful of volant birds. Some of the most energy efficient too!
|| ‘Elepaio -Wiliwilinui Trail
So I don’t have a photo of this but I was impressed. On the way back from hiking the Wiliwilinui Trail, we came across a pair of ‘Elepaio. At the trailhead! These birds were literally feet from people’s backyards! ‘Elepaio on O’ahu are still in a precarious state, but encounters like these show the possibilities of a rosier future.
What does the Spanish reconquering of the Iberian Peninsula have to do with theBus #65? To those of you that follow my blog, you’ll notice that I have a predilection for ending my posts on a positive, hopeful note. The challenges to reforesting Hawai’i with native plants are as grand as they are many. Whilst my hopefulness may seem like wishful thinking, I give you exhibit A. What are those large leafed plants growing vigorously on the roadcut above the Pali Hwy?
It’s Mamaki (Pipturus albidus). By the hairpin turn, below the run-a-way truck ramp there was a washout or landslide a few years back. But instead of invasive weeds coming up, a whole lot of native urticaceae have muscled their way in. That native flora once deemed “doomed to extinction” are dominating a random roadside is my battlecry. It is even more remarkable that it is on one of the busiest thoroughfares on O’ahu.
So is this the biotic version of the Battle of Covadonga? Has the tide turned? I’d like to think that happened long ago. Still, non-native plants have so thoroughly invaded the lowlands that you can go about your normal life in Honolulu and not notice a native plant. But this is the reason I can looked at the highly altered urban environment and see nothing but potential. Native plants not only winning… they are routing their enemies. So next time you are driving over the Pali Hwy, look out your window and cheer them on. Native plants of Hawai’i…take back your homeland!