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Hula Plant Photo(s) of the Day: Hala pepe

April 6, 2013
Halapepe abloom.

Hala pepe in bloom. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser.

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.

Hala pepe tree

Hala pepe can grow 20 feet, or taller. NPS Photo.

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.

Collecting hala pepe fruit for propagation.

Biologist Mark Wasser collects fruit from a hala pepe tree to help restore the species. NPS Photo.

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.

Halapepe keiki

Proof of success. These hala pepe cuttings were salvaged from branches of mature trees that had been broken off. It took about a year, but they eventually began growing in the greenhouse. Instead of rotting on the ground, these cuttings thrived, and as a result, the park has increased the number of hala pepe. NPS Photo.

Visit the Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association park stores for outstanding resources  celebrating all things Hawaiian. Your purchase directly supports park programs!

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