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Hula Plant Photo of the Day: ‘A‘ali‘i

April 23, 2014

Please remember: take only photographs and memories, and leave only footprints when you visit your national parks!

Today’s Hula Plant Photo of the Day is the beautiful ‘a‘ali‘i (Dodonaea viscosa), an abundant indigenous shrub or small tree found from sea level to near the summit of Mauna Loa within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Its leaves are narrow and usually widest near their tips. Its small, inconspicuous flowers are clustered near the ends of its branches, but its dry fruit capsules can have a purplish pink or reddish tinge to them, sport papery wings, and are coveted by lei makers, as seen in the photo below.

Making lei with ‘a‘ali‘i

Lei ‘a‘ali‘i. NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

The fruit capsules and leaves of ‘a‘ali‘i are often used in lei fashioned in the lei wili style, sometimes alone or with other lei material and can be worn around the head (lei po‘o) or around the neck (lei ‘ā‘ī). The capsules are also used to make red dye.

If you want to learn more about the amazing uses and stories behind Hawaiian hula plants, check with the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park for the next Nā Mea Kanu O Ka Hula seminar with kumu hula Ab Kawainohoikala‘i Valencia of Hālau Hula Kalehuaki‘eki‘eika‘iu.

To celebrate National Park Week and the 51st anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Festival, we not only bring you this special blog series on the Hula Plants, but today the park will begin three days of wonderful cultural programs at Kīlauea Visitor Center. E komo mai and mahalo nui loa to all the wonderful and generous cultural practitioners who share their knowledge, mana‘o, with all of us this week!



‘A‘ali‘i thrive along the summit of Kīlauea. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane


Go Wild and Step into History at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park!

April 23, 2014



April 19th-27th is National Park Week!

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located on the South Kona coast on the island of Hawaii. It contains 420 acres of federal lands, including the coastal areas of two ahupua’a (land divisions), Honaunau and Keokea and the upland areas of the Ki’ilae ahupua’a.

The Hawaiian concept of a sanctuary, pu’uhonua, offering people a second chance at life is the primary story at this park. In the centuries before 1819, Hawaiian people caught in extraordinary circumstances, such as being on the losing side in war or breaking kapu (sacred law) could escape the death sentence if they could physically get to the pu’uhonua and receive absolution from the kahuna pule (priest).

A Pu’uhonua is a place of sanctuary for the Hawaiian people and the National Park Service manages these sacred lands to protect and celebrate our unique heritage for the future!

Step into history at your Hawaii National Parks!

Go Wild (With Hawaiian Culture) at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park!

April 23, 2014


This week April (19-27th) is National Park Week at Hawaii’s National Parks!

      Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (KAHO) is located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, and encompasses 1,160 acres, including 598 acres of ocean resources. It was established in 1978 as a National Historical Park because of its significant Hawaiian cultural and natural resources and for the protection and perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture. The park has two fishponds, a fish trap, and many archeological resources, including 450 total archeological sites and approximately 859 recorded features or individual elements. The park was designated as part of the National Park System because of its national value and significance.  It is a place for visitors to enjoy and experience its scenic, natural and cultural beauty.  The designation also recognizes that the park is a special place for Native Hawaiians to explore their cultural heritage and to practice Hawaiian culture. It remains a place accessible for them to experience, discover and recreate as their ancestors once did.

     Come experience Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in person( if you happen to be in Kona, Hawaii!), or listen to Uncle Fred Cachola discuss how the Hawaiians used what was available to them to successfully survive in the barren lava flows of Kona.


An Australian’s Perspective of the National Parks

April 22, 2014

A recent visit in March to the National Park of American Samoa by Australian landscape photographer Andrew Thomas and his partner Debbie, enabled them to add this park to their list of United States National Park visits. They have been on a quest since December 2007, to visit and photograph each of the 59 parks in the National Parks System, and visiting American Samoa gave them their 51st national park site! And its also the closest to home for them in Australia!

A view of Pola Island view Lower Ridge trail.

A view of Pola Island view Lower Ridge trail.

With help from local tour guide who was especially generous in looking after the couple and inviting them into his home at Afono village, they spent 8 days in the island, focusing on the national park. A couple of highlights on the main island of Tuitila was hiking the Mt. Alava trail from Fagasa Pass on the west side of the park, up to the top of Mt Alava for the magnificent views across Pago Pago harbor, and then down to Vatia Village on the north shore, which involved the 768 steps down the jungle trail. Another hike they enjoyed was the Tuafanua trail that leaves from the village of Vatia and heads up an over the pass to the magnificent beach on the north side of the park.

North shore beach at Tuafanua trail.

North shore beach at Tuafanua trail.

Their main plans for their visit was to visit the remote Ofu island, part of the Manu’a Islands approximately 60 miles east of Tuitila. These plans were thrown into disarray on arrival when they learned that there were no direct flights in operation. However, they were pleased to discover from an NPS maintenance crew they met on top of the Mt. Alava trail hike, that the MV Sili was in fact heading for Ofu the next morning. Realizing this was there only chance to get over to Ofu, they accepted the challenge of a 6-7 hour boat trip, even though they would only get one afternoon and evening there before the boat was scheduled to return the next morning. Due to some mechanical problems with the boat, the return trip took 12 hours, but the afternoon they got to spend on the beach at Ofu, often regarded as the jewel in the crown of the National Park, was well worth the effort. In fact they spoke very highly of their adventure on the boat, sharing the experience with the many local Samoans as one of the highlights of their trip.

Ofu island beach.

Ofu island beach.

Andrew and Debbie thoroughly enjoyed their American Samoa adventure, and after they visit the last 8 parks in their quest in Alaska, they hope to return for a return visit. One thing in particular they especially liked was the friendliness of the Samoan people.

Andrew has put together some galleries of his images from his visit to share with others. Andrew is also well on the way to completing his United States National Park book project that can viewed here.

Hula Plant Photo of the Day: ‘Uki

April 22, 2014

‘Uki growing at Kīlauea Iki Crater. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Tuesday’s featured hula plant is the indigenous sedge ‘uki (Machaerina augustifolia), which grows throughout Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in rainforests, mid-elevation woodlands, wet lava flows, and in cinder fields.  ‘Uki is one of the most noticeable, beautiful, and prolific native grasses in the park.

An important nā mea kanu o ka hula (hula plant), the flower clusters and shiny dark stalks of ‘uki are used by lei makers who craft them into lei wili (a lei made with the winding method) and lei haku (a woven lei of several materials) for lei po‘o – a lei worn around the head. You might notice ‘uki in the lei po‘o of the dancers competing in this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival.

This sedge has rigid, green, wedge-shaped leaves and grows in large clumps that can exceed four feet in length, and an inch wide. Feral pigs feed on the leaf bases and thus ‘uki can be hard to find in pig-infested areas.

If you want to learn more about the amazing uses and stories behind Hawaiian hula plants, check with the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park for the next Nā Mea Kanu O Ka Hula seminar with kumu hula Ab Kawainohoikala‘i Valencia of Hālau Hula Kalehuaki‘eki‘eika‘iu.

This week is also National Park Week, and starting Wednesday, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park offers many cultural demonstrations at the Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai. Click here for the schedule. All events are free, but park entrance fees apply.

‘Uki ‘uki

There is a robust field of ‘uki grass near the Nāpau Campground. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

‘Uki growing at Kīlauea

‘Uki makes a lovely addition to the plant communities at Kīlauea Overlook. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

National Junior Ranger Day Kicks Off

April 22, 2014

Officially, National Junior Ranger Day will occur on April 26. However, the National Park of American Samoa celebrates this special day today by awarding over 50 Afonotele Elementary School students as our newest junior rangers. Each year the national park awards junior ranger badges and certificates to as many as 900 youth world-wide.

Wanted to be a Junior Ranger, check out how to get these awesome badges!

Cory’s Story

April 22, 2014


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