Rare hibiscus available at Friday’s Arbor Day sale

Buying a Hawaiian plant at the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife Arbor Day sale this Friday is one way the public can get involved with protecting rare Hawaiian plants.

The sale will be held Friday, Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the DOFAW baseyard and nursery, 4398-D Pua Loke St., Lihue. The nursery is located behind the county Dept. of Water and state Department of Agriculture offices.

About 100 plants of each of the 13 species will be available. Plants will cost from $3 – 9, mainly depending on the size.

The Hibiscus clayi, or “aloalo,” has small red flowers and is found only in a certain mountain area in east Kaua’i. It can reach 15 feet tall.

The Hibiscadelphus distans, or “hau kuahiwi,” is the rarer of the two, with a small green flower different from other hibiscus plants. It is naturally found on the eastern rim of Waimea Canyon and can grow to about 12 feet tall.

Galen Kawakami, DOFAW Natural Area Reserve System specialist, said these two types of hibiscus are fairly easy to take care of; instructions are available at the sale. The hibiscus plants will both cost $9.

“The only way we can sell listed and endangered plants is if they are already being grown in a garden or nursery situation,” Kawakami said.

To do this, seeds from wild plants are harvested and grown in controlled situations; it usually takes about three years to get flowers, he said.

Other Hawaiian plants being sold this year include the lowland koa, beach naupaka, Waimea white hibiscus, akia and beach vitex (pohinahina).

Ornamental plants and trees will also be offered at the sale, including the fragrant, flowering pua keni keni; Pritchardia pacifica (palm tree), Norfolk island pine (“Hawaiian Christmas tree”) and silver trumpet tree.

The Waimea white hibiscus is a native Hawaiian hibiscus that grows freely in Waimea Canyon, but is unique because it has a scent.

Seeds of the “lowland” koa were found in Anahola, proving that the tree will grow at lower elevations on Kaua’i, unlike on Hawai’i, where koa are mainly found in high elevation areas like Kohala.

Of the trees, all can be trained to grow a certain shape or height, but if let alone, the kamani and koa can reach about 30 feet; and the milo and silver trumpet may grow up to 15-20 feet. Naupaka and vitex shrubs are very hardy and are best used for lands near the beach.

Arbor Day was first started in Nebraska in the mid 1800s by pioneers, because there were no trees on its plains.

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed “Tree Day” for all schoolchildren to plant trees in their communities. He recognized the importance of trees, not only for aesthetic benefits but that forests are one of our country’s strongest renewable resources.

National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April, but in Hawai’i, Arbor Day is the last Friday of November. Hawai’i’s state tree is the kukui, or candlenut, tree.

For more information or directions about the Arbor Day sale, please call 274-3433 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday.

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