OHE June 7, 1999 (Laie)

Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 13:53:48 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>
Subject: laie/ohe-l

Warning: This report contains a lot of botanical information. Not all of you will be interested, but I know that many of you are taking every opportunity to learn what you can about the plants along Oahu's trails, particularly our unique native plants.

Yesterday our party of six went up the Laie Trail again. Two weeks ago we hiked up to check on an endangered Hesperomannia arborescens (there's apparently no Hawaiian name) that we'd found in May '98. Its flower buds were just beginning to open up, so we figured that they might be fully open after a two-week interval. Of course, they might not have been fully open or they might even have bloomed and fallen off the plant, but those are the terrible risks that botanists take. Accompanying us was the head of the Center for Plant Conservation, who was very interested in seeing this plant. Coincidentally, she's been working with some related plants in the Waianaes, known as Hesperomannia arbuscula, and was curious to note the differences. Those plants, by the way, will appear in a forthcoming book by David Liitschwager and Susan Middleton, noted photographers of endangered species who are now working on a book about Hawaii, the endangered species poster child of the U.S.A. They've given slide shows in Honolulu for the Botanical Society and the Nature Conservancy, but I suspect they'll be doing more. See them if you ever get a chance.

The day was sunny at first, but later on the weather alternated between sun, light clouds, dark clouds, and light showers. We were constantly stopping to either put on or take off clothes, but, on average, the conditions were perfect for this rather long hike.

On the way up we noticed for the first time a native holei (Ochrosia compta) tree less than 1/4 mile above the Norfolk Island pine grove. It stands alone on the left of the ridge, on a sloping hillside covered with uluhe, about 50' below the trail. It's visible from one of the few spots where the guava "fence" opens up, as the trail bends around a little spur. I believe it's the first such viewing spot beyond the pines. There's a large kalia (Elaeocarpus bifidus) tree below the holei. We were only sure of the holei's identity because we could see its unique fruit through binoculars. These fruit are doubled, looking like two fruits stuck together end-to-end.

We proceeded up trail, which has been well-described elsewhere, passing the turnoff to the falls. About 1/2 hour later, we passed another sidetrail to the right which has always baffled me. It looks like it gets some use and should go down to the stream, but peters out after no more than maybe 100' when it reaches thickly-spaced guava below. On Sunday, it looked like it had had some recent use; I think this must be the spot where Greg and his friend descended to the small waterfall and pool (see his KST writeup of 6-6-99). I just went down to the guava and came back yesterday, leaving explorations for another day.

After many unintentionally false encouragements to some hungry crew members (Don't worry, we're almost there!), we finally reached the crossover to the right side of the trail. We pressed on with hardly a pause and not long after we found an unfamiliar plant in bloom right beside the trail; I think it's a pilo kea (Platydesma spathulata), in part because Ken Suzuki had told me during the Hauula Uka clearing about a Platydesma on the Laie Trail.

On we went, and eventually we came face to face with our fabled Hesperomannia arborescens. Best of all--praise be!--some of the blossoms were fully open. Golden spikelets had emerged from the vase-like purple flower bases. We went to work with our cameras, conventional and digital, and after a long photographic interval affixed metal tags to the two plants at that location. (It may be a violation of botanical protocol, but we all signed the back of the ID tag.)

The question of how best to protect such plants from unwary hikers arose. Is it best to draw attention to a very rare plant so that anyone coming upon it will know what it is and, it is hoped, leave it alone? Or is it better to do nothing, trusting in the protective power of anonymity? We all agreed that education is ideally one of the best remedies. The more that hikers and trail clearers know about our plants, and the less inclined they are to damage any plant that they are unsure of, the better all our native plants, endangered or not, will fare. The HTMC trail clearers exemplify this spirit quite well.

Finally, we ate lunch hunkered down in the uluhe, shielding ourselves from the wind and the occasional precipitation. It was a gourmet group; we enjoyed home-baked bread, two kinds of sweet potatoes, green beans, noodles with chard, frozen fruit cocktails, animal crackers (endangered animals, we're sure), mild peppers, and more. When all our blood went to our stomachs, chilling our bodies, we reluctantly roused ourselves to head down. Amazingly, considering how cold we had been right after lunch, by the time we got down to the waterfalls, most of us enjoyed a refreshing swim. Every time I go up there, I swear to return soon and explore up and downstream from those falls, but I haven't done it yet. I always get lazy and simply stay by the pool, one of the most perfect spots in the world.


Addendum From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>

Some of us have been talking lately about the need for such a trailguide to native plants. Unfortunately, I can't really recommend any sort of guidebook that would be of much help to you at this point in your botanizing. You're probably where I was a few short years ago, asking people, "What was that name again?" over and over, getting spellings confused, and constantly mistaking one common plant for another. There are a few books or booklets (like Mark Merlin's slim volume on forest plants) with inadequate texts and illustrations, but nothing comprehensive and high-quality. The lack of better materials for interested novices is discouraging.

You might be able to get something out of the UH Botany Department's web page; maybe Bishop Museum, too. I'm not sure how helpful these things would be for beginner's, though. You need the help when you're on the trail looking at the plant. Furthermore, it's generally not a good idea to bring back samples because of the harm that might unintentionally be done to the plants.

I learned all that I could from my friends, without whom I would probably never even have gotten off the ground, and then I just ploughed into Wagner, Herbst, and Sohmer's Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, 2 volumes, 2000 pages. It's practically incomprehensible at first, but I stuck with it and bootstrapped my way up, learning tons of jargon in the process.

Bottom line: for now, try to hike with Ken Suzuki, Kost, or others who know plants. Certain group hikes (e.g., those by the Nature Center and Nature Conservancy) are geared toward teaching about plants, geology, etc. I do my share of trailside tutoring (generally, for anyone who'll listen!), but I don't claim great expertise. Just try to stay by the side of someone who really knows, and you'll eventually soak up lots of plant knowledge.


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