Beacons from the Ewa Plains

Today’s short article is about some of the remnant native flora on the Ewa Plains. Most of these nature excursions take me to remote places on O’ahu. So it was a little disconcerting to look for rare natives while dodging traffic, eating lunch on a crowded beach or talking over loud music. And through it all these plants are surviving.

 

This ragged looking individual is actually one of the highlights of the Ewa Plains. This akoko (Euphorbia skottsbergii) was a very common element unique to this part of O’ahu and Moloka’i. Unfortunately the populations have been severely impacted by the development of the Ewa Beach-Kapolei area. Luckily, there are dedicated and ongoing efforts to save this plant.

 

With so much development impacting even the littlest shurbs, you would think that native trees would have been felled long ago. Yet here, just off the road, you find that stalwart of the dryland forest: the mighty Wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis).

 

On the other islands in the chain, Maiapilo (Capparis sandwichiana) is a very common coastal plant. Here on O’ahu however, the situation is not as rosy. It is quite rare, found only in a few select spots. The Ewa plains is one of those places.

 

Now this plant makes a really bold statement. This population of Naio (Myoporum stellatum) has been segregated out of the common M. sandwicense due to distinct differences. The stellate hairs is one of them, giving it its speciesĀ epithet. What’s really neat is that one of the best places to see them happens to be in the parking lot of one of the most well known tourist attractions here on O’ahu. Right by the tour bus drop off area are these lovely specimens. Amazing.

Not too many people think of the natural wonders of Hawai’i when they see the Ewa Plains. The present is dominant by such thoughts as commute times, median home prices, proximity to good schools. People do think of its rich past: many extinct native birds have been found fossilized in the uplifted limestone plains. But it’s these wonderful plants, an akoko here, a rare naio there, that offer beacons of hope for a great future.

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