The Palms of Hawaii III
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The Palms of Hawaii III
Maui has three endemic loulu palms. P. arecina is a stately palm with a robust trunk, and full crown. It can tower over 30 feet in height. Its leaves can reach over three feet long, with stout wooly leaf stalks. The panicles can also be covered with a wooly tomentum.
P. forbesiana is much shorter, only growing to about twelve feet height. It has green, smooth leaves that are stiff and not droopy. Its large fruits are held by one to two panicles that are covered in grayish to yellowing hairs.
P. glabrata is considered a miniature or the smallest of Pritchardia palms, reaching only about six feet in height. It grows in steep, towering cliffs and valleys where the wind races through and can sometimes leave the crown torn from its harshness.
Hawaii is also known as the Big Island and for good reason. All of the other Hawaiian Islands together do not make up the area that the Big Island has. It is also the highest within the Hawaiian Archipelago, and exceeds 10,000 feet altitude. P. affinis survives among hotels, condos, roads and lava on the drier side of the island. Some of the individual trees have marks left in them, which Hawaiians would use to climb like a ladder. These tall monarchs would provide a good lookout, and their fan leaves were a source of thatching. The fruits could be eaten when immature but with so many coconuts around, it was less work for more food to eat the coconuts.
P. schattaueri, is another tall palm reaching up to 130 feet height. The size of its huge leaves are unappreciated until put into perspective when they drop off and can be seen next to you. It also has larger fruits.
P. beccariana has a beautiful, symmetrical crown and can be seen from the roadside on the southern side of Hawaii . Its stiff, flat leaves resemble the leaves of P. pacifica. Its fruit are not symmetrical, and also turn a dark purplish-black when ripe.
P. lanigera has huge leaves (about three feet long). It is a robust, medium sized palm, reaching about 15 feet in height. It is considered rare with less than 150 trees known in the wild.
Some cultivated palms like Hawaii"s climate so much that they escaped and became naturalized. On the Big Island, Archontophoenix alexandrae (Alexander Palm) can be seen populating valleys along streambeds and rainy hillsides. Livistona chinensis (Chinese Fan Palm) can be found in huddles here and there where they crept off from a planted parent. Their seeds are a bluish green that the birds find attractive. They also transport the seeds after eating them and the Livistona grow where they are dropped off. They do not require much in the way of special treatment so they thrive in Hawaii"s developed and undeveloped areas. Phoenix spp. (date palm) has been recently discovered as an escapee in Hawaii (Hodel, pers. comm.). It is popular with landscapers because it does so well regardless of care or weather. Similarly, when left to it self in Hawaii, it also thrives in the wild. The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), is really a Polynesian Introduction. he tree"s own origin is still controversial since people have brought it along with them since the dawn of time due to its usefulness. Although not a real Hawaiian native, it seems right at home along the beaches, roadsides and even in old settlement areas in Hawaii. It still earns its keep in landscaping and with the tourist industry for coconut woven hats, "spoon meat", coir, and fiber cubes from the coconut husk are popular in the nursery trade as a media for certain plants like orchids (although the commercial media is usually imported from Asian sources). Hawaii"s palms are among the most unique, yet most threatened palms in the world. Next time you visit, be sure to discover the real representative of the tropical islands of Hawaii; Pritchardia or loulu palm.
Athens, J.S., Tuggle, H.D., Ward, J.V. & Welch, D.J. (2002) Avifaunal extinctions, vegetation change, and Polynesian impacts in prehistoric Hawaii. Archaeological Oceania 37,:57-78.
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Carlquist, S. (1980) Hawaii, a Natural History. 2nd ed. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai, Hawaii, USA.
Chapin, M.H. (1990) Pritchardia remota-a singularly beautiful palm. Bulletin of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, 20(3),62-64.
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Chapin, M.H., Wood, K.R., Perlman, S.P., and Maunder, M. (2004a) The Conservation Status of the Endemic Pritchardia Palms of Hawaii. Oryx Vol. 38(3): 273-281.
Chapin, M.H., Maunder, M. & Horak, K. (2004b) Decline of three Kauai endemic Pritchardia species within the Hawaiian Archipelago. In Press.
Conant, S. (1985) Recent observations on the plants of Nihoa Island, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Pac. Sci. 39 (2):135-149.
Cuddihy, L.W. & Stone, C.P. (1990) Alteration of Native Hawaiian Vegetation. University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu, Hawaii.
Read, R. and Hodel, D. 1990. In: Wagner, W. L., Herbst, D. R. and Sohmer, S. H. 1990. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawaii. Vol. 1-2. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaii 83: 45-114.
Staples, G.W. & Cowie, R.H. (2001) Hawaii"s Invasive Species. Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, Hawaii, 116 pp.
Uhl, N. W. and Dransfield, J. 1999. Genera Palmarum after ten years. 83: 245-253. In: Evolution, variation, and classification of palms. A. Henderson and F. Borschsenius, editors. Memoirs New York Botanical Garden.
Wagner, W.L., Herbst, D.R. & Sohmer, S.H. (1990) Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii Vol. 1-2. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Melany H. Chapin
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