Autograph trees are invading Hawaii’s forests

by Diana Duff
Special To West Hawaii Today

Sunday, December 5, 2010 7:40 AM HST
Many gardeners in Hawaii have become native plant enthusiasts. More and more people are awakening to the beauty of our native species and learning about them and the vigilance required to save them from harm or eventual extinction. Events like Arbor Day at Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, offering free native plants and information on growing them, help folks learn ways to grow and care for native plants. Interest in these plants, which have thrived in our native forests for millennia, helps raise awareness of the threats a multitude of invasive species pose to them.

One particularly threatening species, the autograph, or signature, tree (Clusia rosea) caught the notice of Darcy Ames, who has witnessed firsthand the encroachment of this species on the ohia forests near her home.

“When I first bought property in Holualoa, I thought the autograph tree was quite lovely,” Ames said. “After a few years of experience, inspection and investigation, I began to realize this tree was capable of destroying the habitat of our ohia and other native species unless we began a proactive course against it.

“After witnessing the damage it can cause, I can honestly say that I hate what this plant is capable of doing. Autograph seeds can be dropped by birds and root as much as 20 or 30 feet in the air in the crotch of an ohia tree.

Kokubun nominated to Ag Department

During the campaign, Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie pledged to inaugurate an “agricultural renaissance” in Hawaii, and he’s tapped a veteran political figure to make it happen.

Abercrombie on Saturday appointed the 2nd District Sen. Russell Kokubun to the Department of Agriculture. His nomination comes on the heels of Dwight Takamine’s appointment to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations after serving half a term as the senator from the 1st District.

The Big Island will lose two-thirds of its elected state Senate delegation if Abercrombie’s appointments are confirmed.

Pulse Research
All of Abercrombie’s appointments must be confirmed by the state Senate.

If Takamine and Kokubun are approved, Abercrombie will appoint senators to replace them.

Kokubun was elected to the Hawaii County Council in 1984 and served until 1992, including the last four years as chairman. He resigned to run for mayor but lost to Stephen Yamashiro in the primary election. Gov. Ben Cayetano appointed him in 1998 to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Two years later, when state Sen. Andy Levin resigned the South Hawaii seat to serve in the Kim administration, Cayetano tapped Kokubun for the seat.

Breadfruit: When it thrives, it provides

HANA – In sleepy Hana, a breadfruit revolution is unfolding.

The 8-year-old Breadfruit Institute, overseen by the National Tropical Botanical Garden of Hana and Kauai, aims to export tens of thousands of breadfruit treelings starting in 2011 to provide a sustainable food source for the hungry around the globe.

This initiative culminates a five-year Breadfruit Institute project to propagate the tree from its tissues – not just its roots – in collaboration with a research team at the University of British Columbia at Okanagan.

The 10-acre orchard inside the entrance to Hana’s 464-acre Kahanu National Tropical Botanical Garden contains the world’s largest breadfruit collection, with 260 trees representing 137 varieties, said institute Collections Manager and Curator Ian Cole in Hana.

Poinsettias, pines and presents

Christmas is right around the corner and shoppers are out in record numbers. Folks are almost obsessed with getting their trees, poinsettias and gifts for family and friends. If you enjoy giving living plants for Christmas, consider giving poinsettias.

Last week, Russell Nagata wrote about the history of poinsettias. Today, let’s focus on purchase, propagation and care of this amazing plant.

Poinsettias, especially in Kona, are in spectacular color now. Although mainland folks think of the poinsettia as a Christmas flower, for us it blooms from late October through March. So if you don’t have a showy supply in your home and garden, now’s the time to start looking for them on the market.

Purchasing potted stock from a garden center or nursery is the easiest way to establish plantings of the holiday ornamental. However, some green thumb operators scavenge the neighborhood for hardwood cuttings when fellow gardeners prune their poinsettias following the flowering season. Getting plants this way can make you feel like a turkey if you choose cuttings from disease infected plants. If you get healthy plants, you can be sure to avoid “fowl” play.

There are a number of poinsettias available. They come in traditional reds or you can enjoy color combinations indoors and in the garden if you mingle the red plantings with white and pink varieties.

Organic inspection classes set for Hilo

Unique opportunity for those interested, or already involved, in a related career

A unique opportunity is available for organic inspectors or those interested in working in the organic field — including county extension agents, regulatory agency staff, organic processors and industry activists — in order to better understand the organic inspection and certification process.

The county Department of Research and Development has provided a grant to enable the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) and Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) to offer “Basic Organic Farm (Crop) Inspector Training,” to be held Jan. 25-29, and “Process and Handling Inspector Training,” to be held Feb. 1-5, in Hilo.

The registration deadline is Sunday, Dec. 12.

Sweet Smell of Success

The rain came down. The price went up, and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. finished the year with a much improved crop.

The final raw sugar shipment was loaded at Kahului Harbor’s Pier One on Wednesday and Thursday.

The harvest was just shy of 172,000 tons, much better than the 127,000 tons in 2009, but well short of the 200,000 tons the plantation can make in a good year.

In a telephone interview from New York on Thursday, HC&S General Manager Chris Benjamin said that although there is still “a ways to go,” the improved crop and better world prices take the immediate pressure off the plantation.

A year ago, after experiencing heavy losses attributed to a long drought, the directors of Alexander & Baldwin took a hard look at HC&S. The 37,000-acre plantation was the origin of the A&B conglomerate, but today it accounts for only about 7 percent of revenues.

The board approved continuation of the business only until the end of this year, pending improved results.

Financial results won’t be published until next year, but Benjamin said he believes that the board is already satisfied that the operation is on the right track.

At this week’s price of nearly 40 cents per pound of raw sugar (in New York), the crop would be worth more than $130 million, not counting molasses and electricity byproduct revenue, plus the premium for the part of the crop sold as specialty sugars.

Farmers fight Pasha decision

HONOLULU – Worried Hawaii farmers and ranchers told state lawmakers Thursday that breaking up Young Brothers Ltd.’s regulated interisland shipping monopoly could result in higher prices and less locally produced food.

They said the Public Utility Commission’s decision allowing Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines to carry cargo through the islands on a trial basis through 2013 could force rate increases and the elimination of unprofitable shipping routes.

“Loss of farmers and ranchers to increased transportation costs isn’t fear of the unknown,” said Warren Watanabe of the Maui County Farm Bureau. “It will happen.”

Young Brothers plans to appeal the regulatory decision to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, said Roy Catalani, the shipper’s vice president for strategic planning and government affairs. But the company may seek rate increases to sustain its business.

The Public Utilities Commission denied an initial appeal on the eve of Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.

“This has the potential of killing agriculture,” said Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms on Oahu. “We have to have agriculture on all islands. They have to be able to get their product to this island in an affordable fashion.”

Extinction Countdown: Hawaii admits possible defeat to invasive species, researches “hybrid ecosystem” instead

The beautiful yet isolated Hawaiian islands hold a bounty of biodiversity, but many of those unique species are rapidly disappearing. The fast growth of invasive species is pushing native Hawaiian species, many of which are found nowhere else on the globe, into extinction. In fact, hundreds of Hawaiian plant species, along with dozens of mammals and insects and other species, already appear on the U.S. endangered species list.

Much of the landscape of Hawaii, especially lowlands near agriculture and cities, has already been transformed, with native species nowhere to be found.

“Invasive species are so prevalent. You’re hand weeding, trying to eliminate them and aren’t able to keep up with them. It feels like you’re fighting a losing battle,” Susan Cordell, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said recently in a prepared statement. “Restoring these lowland tropical forests to a historic native state is not financially or physically feasible.”

Invasive species are non-native species that disperse widely, rapidly, and at the expense of native species in an ecosystem. Not all non-native species become invasive, but those that do pose serious threats to all manner of plants, insects and animals.

So how can Hawaii preserve its biodiversity in the face of this ever-expanding enemy? A new idea is to try developing “hybrid ecosystems” – native and non-native species mixed in a way that benefits native biodiversity.

New Variety of Locally Grown Christmas Trees | Hawaii Business Magaizine

Tired of Norfolk pines? A new variety of Hawaii-grown Christmas trees is available.

By Mariah Mellor

It took five years – from test pot to harvest – for a new variety of local Christmas trees to be available this holiday season from Helemano Farms.

The Leyland Cypress, a popular tree usually grown in the U.S. South, is fuller compared to Helemano’s Norfolk pines. “We planted 15 varieties of trees, about 100 to 400 of each variety, and only the Leyland survived,” says Aaron O’Brien, Helemano’s owner.