What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 4th week in June:"Pua ka wiliwili nanahu ka manō...
When the wiliwili tree blooms, the sharks bite..."
Wiliwili thrives in hot, arid places and flowers for several weeks, usually starting about this time. Hawaiian mothers are said to have kept their children out of the water when the yellow, orange or red blossoms of this native tree could be seen.
Though recent history offers no evidence that manō is particularly prone to attack in June or July, in the old days young seabirds trying their wings during these months may have attracted sharks to feed in near-shore waters.
Wiliwili is adapted for life in hot, dry areas where few other plants can survive. Young trees have prickles to ward off predators, and mature trees drop their leaves before blooming, conserving all their resources for the reproductive effort.
In wet areas, wiliwili may not drop their leaves or come into flower because dampness eliminates the natural cues that initiate these processes. The flowers and bright red seeds are used in lei and wiliwili wood, noted for its lightness, was prized for ama (canoe outriggers) and fishnet floats.