In The Garden
Native plant makes fine hedge
Common beach naupaka
Description: A large shrub with big, fairly thick green leaves, soft white fruit and the well-known "half flower." This is probably the most easily recognizable native plant.
HUI KU MAOLI OLA
Naupaka is edible though not palatable.
The indigenous species is found throughout the tropics on the coasts. In Hawaii, naupaka can be found on practically every sandy or rocky beach.
Landscape use: Naupaka kahakai makes a great hedge. Its natural habitat will tell you that this plant thrives in full sun and needs very little water once established. This plant can be shaped into a low hedge or groomed to more than 10 feet tall. Planting them every two feet ensures a thick and beautiful hedge.
Few pests bother this extremely hardy plant. Try not to plant anything too close to naupaka because it needs room to grow and looks best when it is allowed to spread a little. This plant is readily available at many island nurseries as well as at Home Depot, where it sells for less than $4.
Cultural uses: The flower clusters can be woven into leis, and the fruit are strung together as leis. The fruit are also eaten in times of famine. I've tried them; they don't taste too ono -- and watch out for the hard seed.
More info: On beaches the wind-breaking effect of naupaka traps sand, forming mounds and, in time, sand dunes. This is easily seen at places such as Queen's Beach, now called Allen Davis, or A.D.'s. Places like this (Kaena Point, Kahuku, etc.) harbor many threatened and endangered plant species but are threatened by off-roaders who might not realize that rare plants are being harmed.
Sand dunes as well are not as abundant. Many of the coastlines that once had many dunes are now covered with ironwood trees that don't encourage dune formation. These trees were planted as windbreaks but spread and became invasive. They prevent anything from growing under them. A good place to see this is Waimanalo Beach.
Let's keep the rest of our beaches from being taken over by an invasive alien plant such as ironwood and plant more naupaka instead. The native plant looks nicer, can serve the same purpose and doesn't hurt our feet like the seed cones of ironwood.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org