Monday, October 26, 2009

This Week in Nature:The 5th week in October - he'e

What's Happening in Hawaii 
during the 5th week in October:

Pua ke kō, ku ka he'e.
When the sugar cane tassels, 
the octopus season is here.

Like the proverb about breadfruit, this one gives a botanical cue for food-gathering at sea. Again, the word he'e is used, but in this case, all clues point to an octopus. Sugar cane begins to form plumes in late October or early November, a time of year when large specimens of he'e mauli, the daytime octopus (Octopus cyani), are unusually abundant. He'e mauli frequent shallow water, living in holes on rocks and reef flats and feeding on crabs and shrimp. It is one of two octopuses common in Hawai'i, the other being a nocturnal feeder.

Sugar cane, , with tassels.

Hawaiians were first to cultivate in the islands, using it as a sweet, a quick energy source, and a medicine. Its blossoming was a signal not only to hunt octopus but also to enjoy a seasonal form of recreation: "When the sugar cane tassels, move to the sledding course," says another proverb. But don't look for snow. Hawaiian sledding was done on hills strewn with silky flowers and pili grass. 

  Pili grass.
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

For photos of  he'e mauli and more information, visit the Hanauma Bay Creature Feature page.

Text and  he'e image taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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