Hula Plant Photo(s) of the Day: Hala pepe
Last and certainly not least! Today’s hula plant of the day is hala pepe (Pleomele hawaiiensis), and it honors the seventh and final day of the Merrie Monarch Festival, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Hala pepe is one of the most highly esteemed plants used to adorn the kuahu, or hula altar, to honor Laka the goddess of hula, and is considered the kino lau, or spiritual form, of Kapo, another hula goddess. Its two-inch flowers can also be used for lei.
This stunning plant belongs to the agave sub-family, and can grow 20 feet or higher. There are several types of hala pepe endemic to specific islands. Pleomele hawaiiensis is endemic to Hawai’i Island, and can be found in dryland forests and other mesic regions. It is the rarest species of hala pepe and is federally listed as endangered. Outside the park, its survival is threatened by goats, cattle, alien grasses, fire, and development.
Park resource managers are working to increase the numbers of hala pepe in the park, through propagation, out-planting, and protection. Currently, less than 20 mature, wild hala pepe are found scattered throughout drier areas of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
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