This month’s service learning for UH-West O’ahu biology students was held at Kalaeloa Heritage Park, an archeological site and wahi pana (sacred place) managed and protected by the Kalaeloa Heritage and Legacy Foundation. The 77 acres that make up Kalaleoa Heritage Park containing 177 recorded cultural sites including a heiau (Hawaiian temple). The entire ‘Ewa Plain (stretching from Pearl Harbor west to Wai‘anae) is an emerged coral reef, covered with a thin layer of soil and containing numerous small caves and sinkholes, which served as important sources of fresh water for drinking and agricultural purposes. The structures at Kalaeloa are built of coral ‘rocks’ and suggest a Tahitian origin due to the prevalence of upright stones in the construction.
The process for the students’ service learning was much the same as the previous service learning at Ka’ala Kipuka. The students removed invasive plants from the area (mostly grasses in this case), prepped the soil for planting (mostly with heavy watering) and then planted native plants throughout the area. We focused on a small section of the Kalaeloa Heritage Park next to the recently-built kauhale (meeting house) at the park. Since ‘Ewa is not dry forest, like Ka’ala Kipuka, the native plants we planted here are different from those we worked with last time. ‘
Ewa hinahina, ay-vuh hee-nuh hee-nuh (Achyranthes splendens var. rotundata) This shrub is federally listed as endangered and is found in only three places on O’ahu island, including Kalaeloa Heritage Park. The Hawaiian name for this plant was lost, so it’s current name comes from it’s habitat of the ‘Ewa plains, and hinahina which means grayish or silver. The leaves of this plant have small ‘hairs’ which give the plant a grayish or silver appearance and protect the plant from the heat of the sun.
Naio, nye-oh (Myoporum stellatum) This rare shrub is found only in Kalaeloa and Nanakuli (also on the west side of O’ahu). Naio was sometimes substituted for ‘iliahi during the sandalwood trade, giving it the unfortunate nickname of ‘bastard sandalwood’.
Lonomea, loh-noh-may-uh (Sapindus oahuensis) This large tree is endemic to Hawaii and found only on the islands of O’ahu and Kaua’i. It’s large size and branching canopy make it an excellent shade tree, and an excellent addition to the Kalaeloa Heritage Park. In hopes of ensuring their success, the lonomea trees were planted at the base of kiawe stumps that had been cut down as part of earlier restoration. Kiawe is an invasive tree that was introduced in the 1820s. In theory, spots that previously supported large kiawe trees will prove suitable for native lonomea as well.
Aweoweo, ah-vay-oh-vay-oh (Chenopodium oahuense) Aweoweo is also the name of a Hawaiian fish. The aweoweo shrub shares the name because of the distinct fishy smell of the aweoweo flowers. This shrub is particularly adapted to the coralline soils of the ‘Ewa plain.