Saturday, March 22, 2008

Naupaka kahakai

If you live by the ocean and want to create large, lush, green hedges for privacy, your best bet is naupaka kahakai (Scaevola sericea). This week I joined some friends on a camping trip to Kiholo Bay, where many of the private estates there used naupaka kahakai to full advantage in their landscapes.

Neatly trimmed hedges of naupaka kahakai, also known as beach naupaka, accentuate the strong, clean architectural lines of Dr. Earl Bakken’s estate.

In contrast, naupaka kahakai grows in its natural form at the entrance to Paul Mitchell’s Bali house, complementing its informal, exotic design. Naupaka kahakai also provides a low-maintenance windbreak against onshore winds here.

The seeds of this indigenous native most likely floated to Hawai'i centuries ago. Experiments have shown that naupaka seeds will sprout even after soaked in saltwater for 250 days. This succulent is possibly the easiest native plant to grow, and it’s a cinch to propagate it from seeds or cuttings. Naupaka kahakai withstands salt spray and sandy soil, and it has few diseases and pests.

If you enjoy snorkeling – and if you go to Kiholo Bay you’ll definitely want to -- you can use the leaf of the naupaka to defog your mask. Crush or break a leaf and rub the inside of your mask with the sap.

As always, respect the privacy of residents and don't disturb the protected wildlife.

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