Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Flora of Ka'u

Since I covered Ka'u fauna, "SJKman" has asked how about the plants. That's a daunting topic. There are hundreds of plants here in Ka'u, so I won't attempt to list them all. Although this is the tropics, the climate types in this district run from one end of the scale to the other. I think the tundra classification is the only one missing. Thus there is a niche for just about anything. Spots in Ka'u can be hot, dry, and sun. Others can be cold, wet, cloudy.....or cold, dry, sunny. Warm & wet. Warm & dry. Whoa, how about I just make a list.....hot, warm, cold, dry, moist, wet, sun, cloudy. Ok now, just mix up the combinations, add tradewinds, and you've Ka'u! So just about anything goes. They say if you don't like the weather where you are, just drive down the road five miles. Bound to be different there. 

While there are still plenty of endemic plants in this region, the entire area abounds in introduced varieties. Ranchers brought in grasses and forage plants. Farmers brought in a vast range of food plants, hedgerow plants, flowers, and cover crops. Tree plantations host a variety of introduced tree species. Then there are the hundreds of ornamental and medicinal plants purposely brought in. And we just can't point fingers at the newcomers to these islands. The Hawaiians themselves brought plants with them for cultivation purposes. 

So I guess I'll just address my own farms.......

If you come to my two farm sites you'll be able to pick out plenty of palm trees. And though you may not know what they are, you will see large numbers of Christmasberry, ohia, haole koa, assorted fruit trees, macadamias, coffee, bananas. There's plenty of greenery that includes dozens of different varieties of shrub and tree....most that I don't know what they are or what they're called. The pastures have many types of grasses and herbs growing in them. My gardens are home to a wide assortment of edible plants. And of course there are also the flowers that I've purposely introduced. 

It's easier to say what doesn't exist here than to say was does. You won't find varieties that require winter-like weather. No oaks, maples, birches, most stone fruits. No lilacs, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips to grace flower gardens. Most apples won't thrive here, though I do have two low chill apple trees that are doing well. No pines except for a few types. Some cool weather plants might survive if coddled, but disease usually takes these stressed plants. For example, I have tried growing blueberries but the plants succumbed to rust. 

When we moved here, palms, bananas, and banyan trees looked so exotic to us. They didn't exist in NJ. Of course we are use to them now. Much of the vegetation was foreign to me. I've gradually gotten to know some of it, though I haven't put enough effort into learning about all the different plants. 

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