Saturday, January 30, 2010

Agave attenuata in Hawaii

This plant caught my eye immediately. I saw several blooming in yards. This is Agave attenuata and the flower stalks reach 8-10 feet tall. It has several common names that elude to the curved flower scapes. It certainly looks like an Agave, but unlike most Agaves the leaf tips do not end in a spine. It also has the common name of soft agave. i though there were so stunningly beautiful That i immediately wanted one. Unfortunately they are only hardy to zone 9, and turn to mush at the least bit of frost. these plants are too large and beautiful to trap in a pot, so i will just enjoy them from afar.

Plantlets may form on the flower stalk and
you would think this might produce enough plants to reduce the price in the trade. but you would be wrong. they are rare and very expensive.
They originated in Central Mexico, but even there they are rare.
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Tropical Fruits

This is a star fruit on a tree in the World Botanical Garden on Kona.
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I met a new fruit in Hawaii- rambutan.The red spiky fruit comes in yellow also but the red ones are the only kind I saw. A sawing motion with a knife pierced the thick skin and I was able to pop the pulp out. It has a large ovoid seed and of course I saved a few to try to germinate. I have not tried them yet and I hope they have not dried out too much. The pulp is firmer than a muscadine, but not quite as sweet or sharp.In fact, although it is pleasant, the taste is fairly bland, at least to me. They are a favorite for home gardens and orchards. On the tree rambutan develops in cluster and they keep better if they are left attached to the cluster, rather than picked off. Rambutan is related to lychee which is sometimes on the fruit bar at Chinese restaurants.
We had an array of tropical fruits . Papaya, of course, is familiar, and is good for digestion. The star fruit is beautiful and somewhat sharp in taste and makes a lovely addition to the plate. Passion fruits are the round yellow ones filled with dark seed. The mucilage surrounding the seed is the edible part, and it also is quite acidic. The southeastern passion fruits as I remember them were quite insipid.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Mule Pit

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We were riding along looking when Hiram suddenly yelled "Stop" and marched off into the brush.He returned a few minutes later saying ,"This is it!" It was the place he and Hannah had visited 5 years previously while on a geology field trip to Hawaii.The story was told to them that a man was plowing a mule at this spot when the plow turned up a rock that was apparently holding that section of the earth together and the entire area caved in. It was not clear to me what may have caused the cavern to form in the first place, perhaps a gas bubble or some different manifestation of a lava tube. It certainly is a deep hole as you can see from the second photo. The site used to be listed as a stop on the road but all signage had been removed, and no trail out to the place was visible from the road. I suspect the reason the public is not encouraged to visit any more is that the area may be unstable and still vulnerable to cave ins.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kahaluu Beach Park

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This is Kahaluu Beach Park where we went snorkeling. If you click on the picture you can get a close up of the sign which says "Caution Slippery Rocks". They are not kidding. If you are not careful you might kill yourself before you got water up to your ankles. But the snorkeling was wonderful. This was a completely new experience for me and I was a little afraid, but it turned out to be an easy thing to do and a super experience. It was like being in the fish tank at an aquarium. The bright colored fish of all sorts were just the same kinds I have marveled at in aquariums. I do not know the names of most of them, but I did see 2 kinds of angel fish, parrot fish, and those yellow fish that have a snout, as well as quite an array of other kinds. I saw live coral and there was also a small sea turtle. We rented really good snorkeling equipment right at the beach. One man who had bought his equipment somewhere else was not able to use his because water kept running into the face mask. There must be a couple of valves that keep the water out. After Kahaluu Beach we inquired around for another snorkeling area but discovered we had already been to the best place on the island. We did try another place near Captain Cook's monument, but it was much deeper I saw fewer fish there.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Landscaping with Poinsettias

This is a picture of a house and the front yard of a house I saw in Kona on Hawaii. It was December, But I was completely stunned by this. As specimens of poinsettias, they were ancient and grand. The youngest had trunks as thick as my upper arm. The oldest had trunks as thick as my fat thighs. They seemed to have been maintained by pruning.While this is a unique take on landscaping, not everyone would want lines of Poinsettias in their yard.The younger ones seemed to be at the bottom of the slope and I wondered if the landscaping represented years of Christmas Poinsettias that had been planted out.
Poinsettias were growing in many people's yards (although this certainly takes the cake as far as abundance), but they also seemed to have escaped and were growing "wild" in places beside the road. It is easy to see how completely innocuous plants could become a menace in place where there is no frost.

Monday, January 25, 2010

White and Red Plumeria

In Hawaii I saw Plumerias of several different colors. Most were completely leafless while in bloom.. They are growing commercially to make leis but the ones I saw were in people's yards or other landsacaping. I have a large one in my greenhouse but it seldom blooms. I take cuttings off it to keep it from touching the top plastic in the greenhouse. Cuttings root and grow readily. Just cut a stem off and let the end try for a day or so. Then stick the cutting in a well draining planting media and it will root shortly. The one I have I originally got as a seed through the American Horticultural Society seed exchange. It's blooms have been few and none most years. But I may have discovered the reason. In reading about their cultivation, I may have been kindly giving them too much water. Apparently they need to dry out between waterings.  I did but a cutting of a red one in Hawaii and hope springs eternal-- maybe this time I will get some flowers. 
Plumeria are more fragrant at night. They lure sphinx moths . The moths move from flower to flower pollinating in search of the sweet nectar. It's all fake though. There is no nectar, only fragrance.It's probably just as well for the moths because plumeria are related to oleander and the nectar might be poison if there was any.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not Africa, Hawaii

Out in the countryside we passed these animals. I wonder if the donkey was there to keep the zebra company, but did not think to ask.

The owner of these animals was near the fence and I asked what kind of cattle these were. He said they were from Africa and were Masai cattle. These certainly put longhorns to shame. They seemed very docile, but I was not in the fence with them.They certainly look scary. He said he used them at for roping practice for rodeos. Those horns certainly would make a big target.
 The last picture is an introduced species of milkweed. I knew it looked like milkweed except the pods were round instead of sickle shaped. Later I found the species in a book. The species was imported from Africa to be used as a fiber crop and escaped cultivation. (Hey, the seed are airborne you know). Now it is just a weed, but an interesting one. I wondered if these seed arrived in the manure of these African animals, or maybe on their feet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kona Farmer's Market

A visit to the Kona Farmer's Market was a feast for the eyes.There was all sorts of stuff there, a lot probably made in China, but the flowers, fruit, and vegetables interested me most. The first picture is cut Anthuriums, a flower that may be more associated with Hawaii than orchids. Most of the ones we buy here come from Hawaii.
The second picture, an orange flower, is a Banksia, I believe. (The sign refers to the Anthuriums nearby.). Although these plants were grown in Hawaii, they originated in Australia, but because of such strict import and export regulations, they are grown in Hawaii for sale.
The third picture is proteas. They are exquisite flowers and are endemic to Australia. They last a very long time as cut flowers. I bought a bouquet of mixed proteas at a roadside stand and struggled all the way back to Alabama carrying them. They have dried very nicely.
The next picture shows  what a wide array of flowers were available at the market. They could be purchased loose or in arrangements.
The fruits at the market were a feast for both eyes and stomach. We tried a few of the more unusual ones and I will  write about that at a later time.
The last picture is of a funeral wreath that was being made at the market.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Big Hawaiian Ferns


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At the condo in Hawaii, the gardeners were trimming the ferns with a hedge trimmer. That seemed pretty unusual to me. Then later I saw these head tall plus ferns in a rainforest. This alone might have been worth the trip.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tree Ferns and Wild Hogs



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What do these pictures have in common? Hawaiian tree ferns are very slow growing but after 75 years or so may attain a height and breadth of 15 feet. They are understory in Hawaiian rainforests. They are also a threatened species. World wide tree ferns are been losing ground (literally) as they are exploited for use in orchid media and landscape use. In Hawaii they are threatened by land clearing and development. The middle picture broadens the story. Feral hogs are a threat to native environments everywhere, but especially in Hawaii. They root over the tree ferns, which causes the ferns to catch and hold water. Mosquitoes breed in the standing water.Mosquitoes were unknown on the island till 1826, but when they came they brought with them avian diseases which have added a new threat to the islands' habitat. These diseases are a particular threat to the endemic bird population. This is another example of how everything in the natural world is connected, and we should not not forget that we are a part of the natural world.
The first picture shows landscape use of free ferns. Look natural in that parking lot, right? The second photo was taken at a flea market along the road to Volcanoes National Park. Just as here hunters ride trophy deer around to show them off, this hunter was pleased to display his feral hog trophy. The flea market was typical of most, except they had foods like spam sushi and persimmon cookies.There were used kitchen appliances mixed in with hand made jewelry and threadbare purses. Quite interesting.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bougainvillea or Azalea?


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What would you say these were at first glance? I thought they were azaleas when I first spotted them in Hawaii. They were clipped in the foolish way that some people do azaleas, destroying their lovely natural forms and changing them into boxes. (What do they think boxwoods are for, and why do you suppose they are called that?haha).But this is not azalea, it's bougainvillea. It was blooming everywhere in landscaped areas. It seemed to be a favorite for shopping centers and other businesses, as well as homes.It made me realize how puny and pitiful mine are in pots. I know they need repotting and fertilizer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Southernmost Point in the US




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South Point (Ka Lae) on the southernmost point on the Big island of Hawaii and is,in fact, the southernmost point in the United States. It is an extremely windy place as you can tell from the first picture.We passed 2 wind farms with giant windmills on the road to the point, although one was apparently closed. The wind and confluence of ocean currents here make it a favorite fishing spot for locals. Locals lean out from ledges, dropping their lines into the water far below.The water here is too dangerous to swim in and the currents here were named for a Hawaiian chief (Halaea) who was carried off in the currents.
The currents deposit a lot of marine debris on the area and it is very difficult to remove because of inaccessibility of the site.This debris can be a hazard to wildlife like monk seals and hawksbill turtles that frequent and nest on the site. We did not see any however,and if there was marine debris there I could not see it. Those cliffs are really high. And beautiful.
The South Point Complex is probably the original landing site of the first people who came to Hawaii. The island is the closest land fall from Tahiti and South Point the closest on the island. Archeological evidence dates occupancy to about 124 AD. Early Hawaiians drilled holes in the rock ledges and attached long ropes to their canoes so that they would not drift away in the currents.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii




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In December I went to Hawaii, a place I had wanted to visit since I was a teenager.I had a wonderful time and every part of the trip I am likely to describe as my favorite part. One of the first things we did was take a night boat trip out to see the lava pouring into the ocean, and WOW! what a sight! Land being created in front of our eyes. Occasionally explosions would burst out in random directions into the air. It was like fireworks. It was pretty scary, too, because it was impossible to tell when and in what directions the outburst would occur and I hoped that the boat captain had us at a safe distance.
Hiram put his hand in the water and quickly jerked it back. Comparing it to a sauna he estimated the temperature at 180 degrees. The sea was literally boiling. Small wonder though, as the temperature of the emerging lava is about 2500 degrees.
The steam and the changing paths the lava took to the sea was a magnificent sight and I knew I was witness to a sight few people would ever see.
My dad liked to read about volcanoes, and in a way, I fulfilled his dream when I saw this sight. He always said they were not making any more land, but he was wrong. It will be a long time before it is very usable though.
Boats and I do not get along so well, and I was sick a lot of the time on the lava trip. I think my frequent volcanic releases over the side of the boat may have bothered the other passengers more than they did me.
The Kilauea Volcano was once though to be a satellite of Mauna Loa, but vulcanologists have determined that it is a volcano in its own right with a separate plumbing system from Mauna Loa. It was in almost continuous eruption throughout the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Since 1952 there have been 34 eruptions. The current eruption began in January 1983 and has continued since. It is the most active volcano in the world.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Happy New Year Everyone!
This quote came to me from the Dave's Garden weekly newsletter. Every gardener must be familiar with the website. It answers every question a gardener has (well, almost. it does not do much for the question of what tool to use to dislodge the gunk in the bottom of the oven). At any rate, the quote is beautiful. we could all stand more gratitude.

The essence of gratitude is expressed in a quote by Melodie Beattie frequently passed around via e-mail. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
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