Monday, October 6, 2008

Arboreal Disneyland

The Wiliwili, Erythrina sandwicensis, is the feature of native lowland vegetation up to 1,500 feet. It thrives in the hottest and driest districts on the leeward sides of all the islands. This wiliwili is growing in the dryforest at Pu'u o kali, the lava fields on the southern slopes of Haleakala, Maui. Native wiliwili trees are a keystone species in Hawaii's lowland dry forest, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

Unfortunately, an invasion of a recently-introduced insect to the Hawaiian Islands has infested the leaves of the native wiliwili trees seriously affecting the health and perhaps even the existence of the wiliwili tree.

In August of 2005 a small group of photographers hauled their camera equipment into the wiliwili forest at Pu'u o kali to photo document these trees in their healthy state. These are just a few of the images I was able to catch that day. Pu'u o kali has been appropriately described an arboreal Disneyland, "a kaleidascope forest of fairy-tale trees with bark that glows and blossoms that glitter".

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