Monday, September 14, 2009

Hawaiian Mint, Pokeberry, Raspberry

Are you a plant sale addict? Are you so afflicted that you'd buy plants instead of some yummy local-style grinds? If you’re like me, tables loaded up with transplants means emergency surgery on the wallet. This past weekend I succumbed to some hard-to-find natives at Volcano Art Center’s Forest Education Festival. Of course, it was a fundraiser for the center so I was just being supportive, right? Never mind that in seconds I ended up with only loose change in my purse and I had to go home for lunch instead heading for the food booths….

Mintless Mint, Stenogyne sp.

Without grazing animals to predate on them, many endemic Hawaiian plants put less energy into creating defenses such as thorns or unpleasant tastes. Thus Hawaiian mints, such as this Stenogyne, don’t have a minty taste or smell. However, as you can see in the photo, they do have the square stems characteristic of the mint family. This trailing mint prefers filtered light and moist areas, so I’m planting it under some ‘ohi’a trees in the backyard. The plant I bought has one long vine so I can get a few cuttings, too - I’m getting more than one plant for my money. Hooray!

Hawaiian Pokeberrry, Phytolacca sandwicensis

Who says native plants aren’t colorful? The first time you see Hawaiian Pokeberry, or Popolo ku mai, it will stop you in your tracks. I first saw these attractive, rose pink blooms and deep purple berries on a hike through Kipuka Puaulu, a mesic forest in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I love the deep purple venation on the leaves, too. It likes full sun it needs moist soil, so I’m planting it in a sunnier, open area farther from the house. I’ve been told it reseeds itself, so I’m looking forward to having a nice stand of pokeberry someday.

Hawaiian Raspberry, Rubus hawaiensis

Look, ma, no ow-ees. The endemic raspberry, known as ‘akala in Hawaiian, certainly has prickles, though it isn’t as nasty as the introduced varieties. The flower is dark pink and the fruit is usually large and tart, ranging from deep red to bright yellow. Hawaiian raspberry grows only at high elevations, usually in mesic and wet forests, and in woodlands, so maybe I'll have a chance at coaxing this one to take root here in Volcano Village at 4,000 feet. The kalij pheasants will probably find it unpleasant to peck at it despite its wimpy prickles, but looks like some chewing insects have already nibbled at the leaves; I’ll have to keep an eye on this transplant under the ‘ohi’a trees, too.


Devany said...

My friend and I walk a 3 mile loop around Honoli'i beach each day and we gather and taste as we walk. By far the best thing we nibble on are strawberry guavas. The raspberries are abundant but bland... so sad to us California Girls who are looking for wonderful local berries.

Janice said...

The plants mentioned here are native Hawaiian endemic species which are found no where else in the world. None of these plants grow around Honoli'i. What you've described are invasive introduced species, Himalayan raspberry and strawberry guava. Although they are edible and nice to sample while on the trail, they have caused problems in native ecosystems. Please eat as many strawberry guavas as you possibly can, seeds and all.

Anonymous said...

I too would buy up all the plants and eat at home! I remember eating akala berries when I was Little. the plants get quite large and can have numerous berries the size of a child's fist. the colors taste and texture are how I rate raspberries today! Did your start grow at the village elevation? -Karen