Jefferson Garden Club Member, Claire Guined, presented the program “Hawaiian Plant Life” at the September meeting.
Claire and her husband, James, visited their daughter, Keri, son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Carlson, and grandsons in January of this year in Honolulu. During their tour, Claire was fascinated by the plant life which inspired her to research the many kinds of palms, trees and flowers she discovered. There are 2,600 species of Palm trees.
“Only one is native to Hawaii, the Loulu Palm or Umbrella Tree” says Claire.
It is a smaller palm that is very slow growing. Palms can live for hundreds of years. They are not really trees, but a type of grass, with no rings in the trunk and no bark. The only way to know the age of Palm trees is by referencing the buildings around them and when they were built. Some palms grow a couple inches a year. Over 100 species are endangered by deforestation and unsustainable cultivation practices. Their greenery is called fronds and the outside of the tree is formed from the stems of the fronds.
Palm Trees are a valuable cash crop for the Hawaiian Islands.
They are used in the following ways: construction; instruments; fans; dates; coconuts; palm oil; coconut fertilizer; landscaping; biofuel; bowls; pharmaceuticals and medicine.
The Coconut Palm, which is the most well- known and one of the most useful trees in the world, grows on the eight main islands to 100 feet tall, producing an average of 30-35 coconuts a year. Coconuts have been used by humans for thousands of years.
The Coco De Mer Palm produces the largest seed of any plant in the world weighing over 60 pounds each. There are 400 species of Sago Palms which are the slowest growing of all palm trees. They are native to southern Japan. The males produce pinecones.
“All parts of the plant are extremely poisonous to humans and animals,” says Claire.
The Areca Catechu Palm, better known as Betel Nut in the English language, is believed to have originated in the Philippines. Some natives in the South Pacific chew the nuts which contain alkaloids that are intoxicating and slightly addictive. It is not a controlled substance.
The Norfolk Island Pine, a conifer, is the traditional Christmas tree in Hawaii. In their natural setting they grow very slowly yet can reach a height of 160-210 feet. The limbs are not very sturdy, so the lights are wrapped around the trunk.
Keri, Claire and James’ daughter, left their decorated Norfolk Island Pine tree up so they could see it and celebrate Christmas together. They saw the large trees growing all over the island.
The Hawaiian Islands have many Banyan Trees which are native to India. They are the worlds largest trees, growing to 98 feet tall and more than 50 feet wide. The tree, in the fig family, begins as an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another plant. Banyan trees or Vine trees grow aerial roots that hang down from the upper branches. These roots eventually mature into thick, woody trunks.
Claire’s family made a special trip to Ford Island to see a particular Vine Tree that is a favorite of their grandsons.
“The boys love to swing on the vines” says Claire. “And we joined in on the fun too!”
The state flower of Hawaii is the Hibiscus blooming up to six inches in diameter. There are over 200 varieties. The blossoms only last one day. Heliconia, nicknamed Lobster Claws or Parrot Flowers, produce ample nectar that attracts pollinators, with hummingbirds being the most prevalent. Red Ginger takes three years to flower and is used primarily in flower arrangements. There are 1,300 species of ginger all around the world. Hula dancers shake leaf groupings of the Hawaiian Ti Plant, a palm-like evergreen shrub. The leaves are also used to make Ti Leaf Leis, hula dance skirts and surfboard covers.
A visit to a Dole Pineapple Plantation was a highlight of Claire and James’ visit to Hawaii. The planting and harvesting of pineapples at the plantation are done by hand. Each plant will only grow two pineapples.
“It takes 18 to 22 months for the first pineapple to be ready to harvest,” says Claire. The pineapple plants love Hawaii for the deep volcanic ash soil. The Dole Company served the family “Dole Whip” pineapple soft ice cream” at the end of their tour.
Virginia Aultman was hostess with Ruby Lynn Minish as co-hostess at this meeting of the Jefferson Garden Club. Twenty-one people were in attendance.