Ever Green

By Lois Taylor

Friday, January 29, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Hawaiian studies student Scott Kikiloi wants to upgrade t
he Hawaiian garden, adding plants with cultural uses to the
taro and common landscape material.

Hawaiian garden
trying to go native

EXCEPT for the sound of traffic on Dole Street and the four circular dormitory buildings that look like mammoth soup pots with windows, you could be back 200 years in a Hawaiian taro garden. It's the loi below the Center for Hawaiian Studies on the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. Hundreds of cars drive by daily, but almost no one stops to smell the native Hawaiian gardenias and other indigenous plants.

But there's a reason to go there tomorrow for a sale of native Hawaiian plants and locally produced arts and crafts. The sale is a benefit for the Center for Hawaiian Studies and is the joint project of two graduate students, Scott Kikiloi and Kapaliku Schirman. Both hold bachelors degrees in Hawaiian studies and have worked at Lyon Arboretum in the plant propagation laboratory. Both cultivate native Hawaiian plants as a hobby, Kikiloi in Manoa, Schirman in Waimanalo.

"We went to classes here, and watched the Hawaiian garden kind of fall apart from lack of care," Kikiloi said. "When the new director of the center, Dr. Kilikala Kameeleihiwa, asked us to get involved in the landscaping, we agreed to do it. Some of the hala trees are planted much too close to the buildings, the watering system is hit or miss, and several introduced plants were added to the natives over the years.

"But you know how it is. We had ideas, but no money, so that's when we decided to have the plant sale. Eventually we want to build a nursery for native plants down here, and whatever money we make will go into improving the landscaping. Once we get a nursery established, we will be able to raise money by the sale of plants, and to have them available as gifts for visitors from other parts of Polynesia and the Pacific."

Asked who landscaped the area in the first place, Kikiloi said that nobody did. "It has always been like this. The Hawaiians who first lived in this valley grew taro here."

Manoa Stream flows down the makai side of the area, and ditches have been dug to divert some of the water into the taro fields.

Native plants growing here include ohia lehua, nau (Hawaiian gardenia), milo, banana, mao (Hawaiian cotton), naupaka and coconut. "These are all fine, but they turn up in every native Hawaiian garden," Kikiloi said. "We're looking for diversity, for some of the threatened and endangered plants that by state law can now be cultivated in public and private gardens. We're particularly interested in plants with cultural uses -- fiber arts, musical instruments -- instead of just landscape material."

The trees and bushes grow around the perimeter of the property, with taro fields in the lowest area through which the water flows. The center offers a credit course in traditional taro cultivation, which has become an important cash crop for the production of poi. Students learn to plant by phases of the moon, to recognize the different varieties, and how to propagate and grow them.

Tomorrow's sale will feature plants of five commercial growers and the work of eight local artists who produce crafts of old Hawaii. Not quite as traditional will be a booth selling CDs and tapes of music from Polynesia.

Among the plants included in the sale are aalii, ukiuki and kookoolau, which generally are not found at plant sales. Aalii may stay as a small shrub or grow into a 30 foot tree, so ask before you buy. The fruit is a yellow, red or brown capsule about 1/2-inch long, and is used in lei. It does best in higher altitudes.

Ukiuki is one of the few species of native Hawaiian lilies. It has long, narrow, somewhat leathery leaves, in the center of which grows a branching flower cluster on a short stem. The flowers are small and blue, and develop into light or dark blue berries that are the most attractive feature of the plant.

Kookoolau must be contained or will overrun your garden. It has small light green leaves and yellow or white flower heads at the branch tips. The tips of young plants are gathered, dried, then brewed as a tonic.

The plant that is doing best in the Manoa garden is the lauae fern. It is green and lush, growing to about 18 inches in height, and makes a beautiful background for other shrubs and trees. One of the vendors will have young plants, but this is not something to be entered into lightly. The maile-scented fern grows beautifully just about anywhere on the island, but it takes a bulldozer to remove it. Despite its Hawaiian name, it is not a native plant, but Kikiiloi and Schirman have more or less decided that lauae like the alien mango trees shading the loi, have earned their place.

Native Hawaiian Plant Sale
with Arts and Crafts

Bullet When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet Where: Center for Hawaiian Studies, 2645 Dole St.
Bullet Cost: $2 admission, free parking in adjoining lot.

Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar in Do It Electric!

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Evergreen by Lois Taylor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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Evergreen by Lois Taylor is a regular Friday feature of the
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