OHE March 13, 1999 (Sacred Falls flora)

Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 16:52:12 -1000
From: rogersorrell@juno.com (Roger Sorrell)
Subject: Sacred Falls Trail Plants

Sacred Falls trail has obvious deficits in terms of traffic and lots of alien plants, but since it's still a great place to go with guests and to enjoy the lovely falls and the sheer wa'a wa'a (slender canoe) walls, it merits a description of the natives in case we find ourselves there.

The road in is only notable for some large Halas (pandanus), usually on the stream bank. This is the plant botanists argued over for decades in terms of whether it was native or not, until someone found a fossil of it. Case closed! Enjoy the banana plantation on the right.

After the trailhead, some natives do appear. Some Pala'a fern is on the right bank before the stream crossing. Mamaki (bushy, slender trunk, big light green leaves; Pipturus albidus) begins to appear. It has many uses--a popular tea is made from the leaves. After you cross the stream, one Ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) tree appears through the Kukui on the right, and also some 'Ie i'e (Frecynetia arborea) can be seen on the steep bank across the stream.

Two gems are here for those really interested in finding them. Among the large, dark green-leaved mountain apple trees with their deep pink flowers, the wet stones have lots of Gonocormus saxifragioides (or minutus)--the smallest fern in the world. This indigenous fern looks like a green liverwort, it's so small, but can be differentiated by its serrated semi-circular edges (thus the name saxifragioides--"sword cut"). It's usually about 1/3 of an inch in diameter. Also here, some Cyrtandras are making a comeback. These are Hawaiian "African violets", and appear on the left bank as slender flowering plants, usually 1-2 ft. high. Their leaves are light green, somewhat narrow, and sharp-pointed. The beautiful small white flowers hang shyly under the top leaves. Some O'ahu Cyrtandras are so rare they exist only in one gulch. Please don't disturb these!

Also present, though difficult to differentiate from the mountain apple trees, are some large Pisonia trees. These gulch trees have very large, somewhat wavy, deep green leaves, somewhat similar to the mountain apple, but still larger and longer. They're on the left side as you go up and get near the falls.

Enjoy and preserve!

Roger Sorrell, Ph.D.

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