Welcome to the Place of Many Perches

So have you ever been able to plant an endangered tree?  We each did today, under the tutelage of Baron.

A little now about Baron, taken from articles sent to us by Dean A.  

Baron Horiuchi has spent over 13 years developing and implementing propagation and out-planting methods for endangered Hawaiian plants at the Hakalau Forest NWR in Hawaii. He has created a unique program that engages many conservation partners and volunteer groups in the management of the Hakalau Forest greenhouse operation. Baron has aided in the recovery of seven species of endangered plants, including two species with fewer than three individuals remaining in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the 2012 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence to him for his scientific contributions toward native plant propagation and restoration.  Because of his persistence and ingenuity, the populations of endangered plants such as the lobeliad Cyanea shipmanii, with only three known individuals in the wild, have increased 30-fold, elevating their potential for recovery and reducing their risk of extinction. More than 6,000 other plants of seven endangered species have been propagated from seeds and cuttings, greenhouse grown and out-planted into protected areas. He has planted over half a million koa trees!  The result of all these efforts is the return of forest habitat. Native forest birds have returned to an area that was open pasture from cattle grazing just 20 years ago. Many of the native bird species, such as ‘apapane, ‘i‘iwi, Hawai‘i ‘elepaio, and Hawai‘i ‘amakihi, are seen regularly within the replanted areas. In addition, the endangered Hawai‘i creeper and akiapōlā‘au regularly forage in the replanted koa groves.

And this was our host, a man who made this greenhouse happen with his own two hands, and out of his own pocket.

The morning started typically - first one awake, I started the coffee, and went outside to see what the world had to offer.  It was raining, and the clouds were coming in on us.  Nēnē were at the back door, enjoying themselves.  Lauren and Hillary made us a robust eggs and bacon breakfast, and we had bagels, and fruit.  Full bellied kind of day.  I filled my day pack with water and jerky, and we went outside with Baron somewhere around 9 am.

We started out with a tour of Baron’s first greenhouse - a reclaimed dog kennel that he took over when the refuge had to get rid of its dogs, they had gone out and eaten nēnē, also an endangered species.  He didn’t ask his bosses, he just took it over and began his out planting operation.  

There are well over a half million plantings.  Talk about impressive.

One of the things that Baron showed us was a species of mint that had been thought to be extinct, but was discovered in Hakalau in 1990.  Baron sent clippings off to the Bishop museum while trying to figure out the species.  A year later (yes, the Bishop museum has to be busy), the reply was that the mint was the phyllostegia brevidens.  Baron found it in at least one other location in Hakalau, and began cultivating it.

We then toured the greenhouse where most of the plantings exist - the sign the entry says “Laulima,” which translates into “many hands working together.”  That sign was carved by visitors and gifted to Baron.  The hands on either side of the sign vary in size, which represents the wide diversity of ages in the volunteers who come here.  The sign at the top of the blog is the original sign, still lovingly kept in the greenhouse.

Then it was on to the new greenhouse, contracted and constructed without consulting Baron.  It has a little work left to do. What was very impressive was outside the greenhouse - all the water used in the greenhouse comes from a cachement system.  Baron is working to get all of the water collection tanks connected in order to be able to use the water more efficiently.  Right now the tanks are full thanks to the recent tropical storm, but it isn’t always that way.  Connecting the tanks will make Baron’s job a little easier in times of drought.

We spent some time choosing and then planting trees.  I chose a polymorpha - ʻŌhia - as did a few others.  Dean A chose an ʻŌhia Lehua, and Grant a Pukiʻawe.  It was quite a bit of work to clear the area, break the soil, and do the planting.  But it was wonderful, and the smell of freshly dug earth relaxing. 

After the planting, we began creating cuttings - mint.  The “extinct” Brevidens, and Velutina and Racemosa.  It feels almost like you are killing them when you make the cuttings, you are brutal with your gardening scissors, and yet not.  I think we made hundreds  of cuttings.  And we squished seed pods for planting berry trees.  That was some hard work, and made the fingers tired.  Every time I thought I had popped open all the seeds, another cherry showed up.  We needed rolling pins!

And then it was lunchtime, and getting ready to head to Pua ʻAkala cabin.

On the ride over we saw Erckels Franklin, green neck pheasants, Hawaii creepers, ʻElepaio and ʻOmaio.  What a treat!  It makes me wish someone else were driving so I could take out my camera and shoot stills.  Of course, if you donʻt put your camera into your camera bag, you arenʻt going to get those stills. The pictures you see here are from my iPhone.  Good pictures, but I wish I had remembered to put the Olympus in the truck!

The cabin is part of the Pua ʻAkala Ranch, which was built in 1883 by D.H. & E.G. Hitchcock.  They were the owners of Hitchcock & Co. Sugar Plantation.  Built originally as a vacation house by the Hitchcock family, traveled to by mule from Hilo, the cabin became a bunkhouse and rooms were added when the Shipmans leased the land to raise cattle.  The house is made of koa, has seven rooms, a corrugated roof, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and ghosts.  The cabin is haunted, possibly by two spirits.  One is a young child, and one an older man.  Freakily, Allieʻs picture shows a face in the window.  Unfortunately, I donʻt have that one to share. 

I had made jerky from about four pounds of beef the night before we came here, and split it into two bags (different seasoning mixes).  It was quite popular, especially with Conrad, but both Rhiannon and I left some out for the spirits in the house.  Uncle Likeke often told us stories about spirits in the night, and that they would leave him be if there was food around.  Couldnʻt hurt, right?  We also made sure not to make a full circle around the house - by completing a full circle, you take away some of the energy of the house with you.  These are not happy spirits, so no full circle from us. 

We managed to see Iʻiwi, two ʻIo (Hawaiian hawks), and very possibly a Hawaiian creeper right by the cabin.  

Then it was rallying time, and time to go down slope further into the forest.  This time, we were hunting after Pilo beans, an orange bean related to coffee.  Baron will be smashing these, roasting the seeds, and using them to make warming beverages.  Probably coffee.  We went exploring, looking for birds, and were treated to lovely, little flitting birds going around overhead.  And as the sun was starting to get ready to set, there was an exquisite rainbow over the forest canopy.  Almost the golden hour.

Then it was back to the cabin, where we took turns getting showers (yes, warm water!) while our stir fry dinner was being prepared.  It was a fun, conversation filled supper.  After Dean A headed back up the hill, we started out playing hearts.  That lasted maybe a round, and then Grant pulled out Apples to Apples.  Itʻs hard to describe, but a player throws down a red card that has a word on it, and then all the others throw down a green card that may (or may not!) relate to the initial card.  We played until a little after 10 pm, with lots of ghost talk story.  There was too much cloud cover to see the stars, so we headed off to sleep.  Another time perhaps.