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Manoa Valley forest

The lowland agricultural terraces of Manoa Valley have been taken over by forest of mostly introduced species.


Three ecosystems characterize the vegetation in Limahuli valley. Chipper explains:


Vegetation zones map

Lowland Rainforest:

"This first ecosystem is characterized by 'ohi'a lehua as one of the dominant trees. We find ohi'a lehua growing naturally here nearly down to the ocean. There are remnant populations in the valley of naturally occurring ohi'a lehua all throughout the Limahuli Garden area. As I mentioned earlier, due to the rainfall regime, we have a lowland rainforest that comes nearly down to the ocean."



Limahuli Cliffs vegetation

Vegetation changes up the sides of Limahuli Valley.


The Slopes:

"Once you get up a little bit more onto the ridges, it gets drier. There are two effects for that.

"First, because it's steeper, the rain tends to run off a little more quickly. As you get up on the slopes, you may get an equal amount of rain as on a flat part, but the rain is going to run off. So less water is actually available.



This white hibiscus is native to Kaua‘i.


"Second, you're exposed to the drying effect of the trade winds. So the plants that would grow there tend to be more like plants that would grow in a dry area.

"So we call this area the Mesophytic or Mixed Mesophytic ecosystem, which is more of a transitional ecosystem between rainforest ecosystem and dry forest. And the dominant species in that kind of ecosystem is lama, the native ebony, sacred to the goddess Laka, who was goddess of the hula and goddess of the forest."



Mountain Rainforest:

"Then, in the very back of the valley, up above the waterfall, we begin the transition into the Mountain Rainforest, in which the primary dominant species is chyrodendron--'olapalapa is the Hawaiian name for it--and 'oma'o ferns, and things like that.

"There is a lot of overlap in these different zones, but there weren't a lot of resources in that upper area, because its so difficult to get to--it's not like you could go up there and get a canoe log and bring it down, or something like that--so my guess is that probably it was primarily an area for the bird catchers. It would have been a natural habitat for all of the forest birds up there."



The native maile growing in Limahuli Gardens.



Laua‘e ferns growing at the base of Makana.


Plants unique to Kaua‘i --endemic plants--are found within these zones, including a few that are endemic to that area (found nowhere else). At Limahuli Gardens, these plants are being carefully reproduced and preserved.

Ha‘ena is renowned for a native plant common throughout the islands, the scented laua‘e fern. Here are some expressions from Mary Kawena Pukui's collection:



"Ka laua‘e ‘ala o Kalalau."
Fragrant laua‘e ferns of Kalalau.
Makana and Kalalau, on Kaua‘i, were noted for the growth and fragrance of laua‘e ferns.
‘Olelo No‘eau #1433

"Ka poli laua‘e o Makana."
Makana, whose bosom is adorned with laua‘e ferns.
Famed in songs and chants are the fragrant laua‘e ferns of Makana, Kaua‘i.
‘Olelo No‘eau #1542

"Laua‘e o Makana."
The laua‘e fern of Makana.
Famed in songs and chants is the laua‘e that grows everywhere at Makana on Kaua‘i. When crushed it has a scent similar to that of the maile and is often used with the pandanus fruit in making lei.
‘Olelo No‘eau #1949



The types and distributions of vegetation are very much dependent on the availability of moisture. The next section examines the availability of water in Ha‘ena.



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