Thursday, May 16, 2013

Limahuli Gardens of Kauai

Today I will finally finish posting the Hawaii photos.  After hiking part way up the trail on the Napoli coast, I visited the Limahuli Gardens, which is located near the end of the road on the north shore. 

Limahuli Garen and Preserve is situated in a 1,000 acre valley that houses countless biologic and cultural treasures.  There are nearly 250 taxa of native plants and birds in the valley, about 50 of them are on the verge of extinction -- some of them found only in Limahuli. 

An interesting structure at the beginning of the gardens.

The Polynesians who came to Hawaii sometime between 200 and 300 AD, often built terraces to cultivate their crops.  Most of their crops were grown from plant specimens brought with them across the Pacific.  The Limahuli Valley was one of the first areas they occupied due to its protecting ridges, fertile soil, constant stream, frequent rain, and plentiful marine life. 

The voyagers' first challenge was to find enough food.  Very few of the native plants were edible and, with the exception of flightless birds, there were no large land animals to hunt.  The voyaging Polynesians survived and flourished in Hawaii because they reserved space in their canoes for their 27 most important plants and 4 animals (jungle fowl, pigs, rats and dogs).  Some of the plants they brought with them, like breadfruit, no longer reproduced from seed.  Small plants and cuttings had to be carefully packed to survive the long journey in the Polynesian voyaging canoes.  Now, many of these introduced species have out competed and taken over the native plants.

Kalo, commonly known as taro, is the staple food of Hawaiian people.  Every part of the plant is edible when cooked.  If Kalo is not cooked thoroughly, tiny crystals of calcium oxalate will cause an irritating reaction in the mouth and throat.  Cooked kalo stems are eaten like potatoes, or pounded and mixed with water to make poi. 

Below is a picture of the Makana mountain that towers over the valley.  Although it is commonly referred to as Bali Hai, a name popularized by the movie South Pacific, the ancient Hawaiians named it Makana.  The mountain was used by locals in a fire throwing ceremony.  Skilled fire throwers climbed the steep cliffs to the very top.  When night fell, they set the logs afire and hurled them out over the ocean.  Updrafts, created by the trade winds hitting the sheer cliff of the mountain, kept the firebrands aloft, souring as far as a mile out to sea. 

Some of the plants in the garden reserve...

There are many legends in Hawaii.  The rock formation below involves one of these legends.  Long ago, a young boy named Nou wanted to hurl a firebrand from the top of the Makana mountain.  Although he was told he was too young, he followed the older fire throwers up the cliff.  While climbing up the cliff, he heard a cry for help.  The young boy saved the life of a holy man who was trapped under a rock.  Later, the older fire throwers discovered the boy.  Normally, the punishment for violating the fire ceremony would have been death.  However, the boy asked for his life to be spared if he threw his firebrand the farthest.  The holy man had agreed to assist the throw, as a thanks for Nou saving his life.  The older fire throwers were furious that they had been shown to be weak.  During the next ceremony, they killed the boy.  The holy man still stands as the rock formation below guarding the boy's grave.

Long before sugar cane was introduced as a commercial crop in the 1800s, sugar cane, known as ko to the Hawaiians, was important enough to be carried in the canoes of early Polynesian settlers.  Hawaiians planted ko in colorful clumps near their homes, and used it for food, flavoring, and medicine.  In modern times sugar cane has made many fortunes, influenced politics, fueled the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and changed the face of the land.  However, the sugar industry is now on a decline and, though once abundant on all the islands, sugar cane fields can only be found today on Maui.

Native to India, the mango was brought to Hawaii in the 1800s because of its delicious fruit .  Since its introduction, mango has escaped cultivation and is now invasive in the Hawaiian forest.  Although mango is a favorite fruit to many, some people may develop severe reactions after eating it.  Mango is in the same family as poison oak and poison ivy.

Of course there were many flowers in the garden...

Below is the Loulu plant, the only palm genus native to Hawaii.  It was discovered in the Limahuli Valley in 1977. 

A column of basalt in the adjoining cliff.

Cool tree...

A photo of the cliffs...

The plant below has an unusual appearance -- some  say it looks like a cabbage on a baseball bat.  This plant is thought to be extinct in the wild.   Thanks to botanists who rappelled down cliffs on the Napali coast to collect seeds, this plant has been saved -- but it is grown only in cultivated gardens.

More scenes from the garden...

Then I had to leave to drive the hour and 20 minutes to the airport and turn in my car.

I took a couple pictures at the airport of the late afternoon cloud formations.

Thanks again to Barb and Tom for allowing me to stay at their timeshare for the first week.  Your generosity made this incredible vacation possible.

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