Monday, July 13, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 3rd week in July

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 3rd week in July:

"Pala ka hala,
momona ka hā'uke'uke.

When the pandanus fruit ripens,

the hā'uke'uke sea urchin is fat."

Hala (pandanus) fruit

Hawaiians used the orange fruit of the hala tree (pandanus) as a signal to search for sea urchins that are fat with eggs at this time of year.

Hā'uke'uke is a type of sea urchin with blunt or very short spines. A common purple variety (see below) clings to rocks in surging inshore waters, while the one depicted above, hā'uke'uke 'ula'ula, is a reef-dweller.

Purple sea urchins at Kaena Point
Photo: C. Tucker

In another proverb, ripe hala fruit is given as a cue to look for uhu, the parrot fish, which feeds on sea urchins and may be fatter or more accessible now than at other times.  

Hala fruit are not eaten, but may be strung in lei or, when dry, used for brushes. Other parts of the plant also have traditional uses. Lau hala, the leaves, are the raw material used for mats, baskets, and other woven goods. Flowers from male trees were used to scent kapa, while aerial roots were sometimes taken as medicine.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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