GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Native Nursery co-owner Ethan Romanchak (wearing baseball cap) explains to students from Kamehameha High School on Maui the work involved in growing and transplanting native trees and shrubs for a reforestation project on Maui.
Blessing preps native seedlings for Maui soil
Native plants, as well as redwoods, are part of a state reforestation project for Haleakala
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State forestry officials hope redwoods, koa, mamane and ohia will tower one day in burned-out areas of the Kula Forest Reserve.
They held a blessing yesterday for 155,000 native plant seedlings -- an additional 57,000 redwood seedlings are coming from the mainland -- that will eventually be planted in the reserve. The $1.3 million watershed project is one of the largest reforestations involving native trees and shrubs on Maui. About 2,300 acres of the forest burned earlier this year in a fire.
Students on Maui are participating as volunteers, assisting state and private workers.
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KULA, Maui » At a plant nursery, workers are readying thousands of seedlings of native species for planting on the slopes of Haleakala where a fire burned 2,300 acres of the Kula Forest Reserve earlier this year.
A NEW FOREST BEGINS FOR KULA
212,000 seedlings will be planted in burned-out areas of the Kula Forest Reserve:
» 37,000 koa
» 22,000 ohia
» 37,000 mamane
» 46,000 aalii
» 13,000 naio
» 57,000 redwood
"This is really a new beginning," said John Cumming, state forestry manager on Maui.
It is also one of the largest state reforestation projects on Maui and among the most ambitious using native plant species in a Hawaii forest.
The state is spending about $1.3 million to replant portions of the Kula Forest Reserve.
Of the 2,300 acres burned from Jan. 23 to Feb. 5, some 1,500 acres were scorched to such an extent that replanting will be necessary to protect the watershed, state forestry officials said.
The fire that burned away native as well as alien species such as pine trees created an opportunity to try to grow more native plants to help support native species.
During a ceremony yesterday, state officials and nursery workers and volunteers blessed some 150,000 seedlings destined for the reserve. An additional 5,000 are on order to replace any that do not survive.
Cumming said new redwood trees will be planted in the same forest.
State foresters said they prefer planting redwoods to pine trees because of their potential commercial value and because they are less prone to spread a fire.
While the redwood seedlings are coming from the mainland, some 57,000 seedlings of native plants have been provided in the first phase by Native Nursery in Kula.
Native Nursery co-owner Ethan Romanchak said he enjoyed growing the native species from seed.
"I love coming to work," he said.
The native seedlings are forest trees, such as koa, mamane and ohia, and shrubs, including aalii and naio.
State resource protection forester Lance De Silva said that to avoid mixing the genetic pool, the seeds for the native plants have come from Haleakala.
De Silva said in regrowing the forest, state horticultural specialists are keeping in mind the limits of certain native plants.
For instance, while the aalii is able to grow on the slopes as well as at sea level, ohia trees are unable to do well above the 6,000- to 6,500-foot level, De Silva said.
He said the native plants' survival will depend to some extent on the amount of rain in the reserve.
The project also has been a hands-on educational opportunity for students.
A group of some 35 Seabury Hall students was expected to assist foresters today in planting the seedlings in the forest.
Yesterday, 15 students from Kamehameha High School helped to gather aalii seedlings and prepare them for their trip to the reserve.
Kamehameha teacher Duane Iwamura, an instructor in agricultural science, said students are learning about marketing, processing and crop productivity.
"It also gives the students a better understanding of native plants and reforestation techniques," he said.