Culturally and ethnobotanically, some native Hawaiian plants are like deep `umeke (calabashes), with what is inside them nearly completely unknown. The po’olā (Claoxylon sandwicensis) is one of these. Ancient Hawaiians had superb ethnobotanical abilities, using many or even most native species for specific purposes. The name used for this uncommon mountain plant is very specific, used for no other plant species in the islands, seeming to symbolize some usage or significance, yet any specific ethnobotany has been lost without documentation.
The name po’olā translates literally to ‘sun head’, and is also used specifically for one life stage of the ‘ama’ama, or mullet, an important food fish for the people of old. Another Hawaiian name recorded for this species on Kaua`i island is laukea. Uses and stories associated with this mountain plant are all but unknown. Malcolm Naea Chun (1994, Must We Wait in Despair - The 1867 Report of The `Ahahui L`au Lapa`au of Wailuku, Maui on Native Hawaiian Health. First People`s Productions, Honolulu, Hawai`i, 318 pp.), translating early manuscripts, reports the only recorded ethnobotanical use of the species with the bark and leaves of po`olā used in the treatment of an undetermined sickness.
Po’olā are interesting, soft wooded shrub-trees of markedly diverse, native leeward forests of the main Hawaiian Islands. The species is dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants, and it also appears to be one of the few Hawaiian plants pollinated by wind. One beautiful characteristic of the species, perhaps unique among the native Hawaiian flora, is their pollen, bright blue at maturity (photo above). Another peculiar characteristic is the almost blue hue in their foliage which becomes even stronger as the leaves are dried, such as in pressed specimens.
The po’olā shrub-tree is still found at Auwahi forest today, with less than 100 individuals scattered throughout the district.
Come join us next week Saturday, May 26 for a special trip to Auwahi forest. With the 'Wahi PanaAuwahi' art exhibition at the Hui No`eau just around the corner, artists are encouraged to attend!
Due to limited seating, please understand that confirmation of your reservation is required for you to attend. To request a seat, send us a note to email@example.com and we will respond to your request by Monday, May 21.
Where: Meet at ʻUlupalakua Ranch Store. Please park behind store and bring all your gear.
When: Saturday, May 26, 2018 8:00 AM ~ 4:00 PM
What to bring: Due to the rough and steep terrain, we require hiking boots that cover the ankle, and unfortunately, we will have to turn folks away without proper boots. We have some extra boots you can borrow but please bring your own socks. Long pants are also recommended to protect against the dense understory brush. Please bring a back pack with layered clothing rain gear, two liters of water, lunch, sunscreen and a hat. Please clean all your gear, backpacks and boots to leave hitchhiking seeds behind.
Located on and sponsored by `Ulupalakua Ranch, the Auwahi Project (www.auwahi.org) protects one of the last diverse tracts of dryland forest in the archipelago. We are a community based project, in large part, dependent on the contributions of the public, especially in terms of volunteerism for tree planting and other aspects of forest management.
As usual, before leaving the ranch we will be decontaminating our boots with brushes to help prevent the spread of invasive plants and using alcohol to avoid the potential spread of rapid `ōhi`a death (ROD) and other potential pathogens that can threaten our native Hawaiian forests.
Auwahi Forest Restoration `ohana