Kahoe’s smoke

On one hand, this stretch of dry weather has created some awesome conditions for summit hikes. But for the flora’s sake, I hope it breaks soon. In the meantime, I’ll take as much advantage as I can. Saturday, we chose to head up Keahiakahoe via the Moanalua Middle Ridge. The plant life along the way was simple awesome.

The hike started with a long walk along the old carriage road. It’s more of a hassle on the way back, but more on that later. The valley floor is composed of mostly non-native flora, but near the trailheads themselves there is some conspicuous koa and uluhe around. There’s even some neneleau (Rhus sandwicensis) but I wasn’t able to take a picture of it. I thought I would have enough light on the way back down, silly me.

One quick note before we get to the plants: there were Apapane (Himatone sanguinea) everwhere! The whole day they were quite conspicuous flying and calling in the air. But I’ve learned not to bother trying to photograph them: I really don’t have the proper lens or skill for it. I’d literally need to have it land on a bush a foot from me for a chance at a good shot. If I were to wait around for that… well I might as well wait for a Delissea lacinata to sprout on Hotel St. Back to the plants…

One common element of the ridge are the naupaka kuahiwi (Scaevola spp.S. gaudichaudiana, with it’s pure white flowers, is typically the first naupaka one comes across on a ridge hike. Typically it’s replaced by S. mollis in higher, wetter areas, but there is usually a lot of intergrades. On this ridge, however, we weren’t seeing too many hybrids.

Lobeliads! I was very pleased to come across a little grove of Clermontia persicifolia. Notice its shiny, stiff leaves and compare it to Clermontia oblongifolia, which we will happily come across later.

Another plant we came across was this akoko (Euphorbia clusiifolia). There have been some revisions to the Hawaiian akoko species. They have been place back into Euphorbia from Chamaesyce. It is a somewhat inconspicuous plant but it is right along the trail.

I have to mention how nice it was to come across all the Loulu (Pritchardia martii) along the trail. They were quite common. There were dozens and dozens of them in mostly long vertical patches.

Also neat was this Zanthoxylum oahuense. It was also nice to see it in some numbers along the hillsides. I spotted 8 that were easily seen from the trail, which was great considering the general decline of this species.

What the Moanalua Middle Ridge is known for is its population of prostrate lehuas. This is Metrosideros “C” sensu Joel.  This particular variety doesn’t have very rugose leaves and the undersides of the young leaves typically have patchy white hairs. The leaves seem to become more glabrous with age. So far it’s known from a few windy summits on the Ko’olaus.

Adjacent to the cute little ohias was this cute little native grass. This is Dichanthelium koolauense. Aside from here in the Ko’olaus, it is also found in West Maui.

As promised, here is the Clermontia oblongifolia we came across. Notice how much more droopy the leaves are.

Just above the C. oblongifolia was another lobeliad. This rather haggard looking specimen is a Cyanea koolauensis. It looks like it survived some sort of trauma in its past. Hopefully it makes a full recovery.

Now here’s a shot. This is a lehua papa (Metrosideros rugosa). But the reason I took this shot is because this particular bush has the same general profile of that strange Dracaena the Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari) of the Socotra archipelago.

All this awesomeness and we haven’t reached the summit yet? Not too shabby, but when we reached the summit of Keahiakahoe, there was some neat stuff there too.

This member of the Sunflower family is Dubautia laxa sub. laxa. Note the curled new growth and the parallel venation. This species was quite common on the summit.

This is the first time I’ve seen one of the Kamakahala spp. in bloom. This species (Labordia hosakana) is also very common on the summit.

There are non-native laukahi (Plantago major & P. lanceolata) that have been incorporated in the traditional lau lapa’au. This, however, is the endemic Plantago pachyphylla. It can be somewhat common it wet summit areas.

Koli’i (Trematolobelia spp.) are also common elements of the cloudswept summits. This specimen of T. macrostacys is particularly interesting; it seems to have ignored tradition. koli’i are monocarpic, flowering once in its lifecycle then dying. This particular individual looks like it refuses to die. The main stems seems to have already died but there’s new growth from the sides. How’s that for a resilient plant!

There are stories and legends about Keahiakahoe. Mostly centering on a man named Kahoe who would cook for his brother and sister. The smoke from his fires could be seen from across the land. After satiating ourselves on the bounty of the mountain, I’d have to give thanks to Kahoe. The native plant diversity was just wonderful. And I didn’t even cover it all. But boy, it was needed after a long 14 hr day. That carriage road just never seemed to end…

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