Rubber trees impress Tantalus wanderer
By Heidi Bornhorst
Q. I was walking around Tantalus and saw lots of this one particular kind of tree. It had a flaking bark that was slightly reddish in color. Most of the trees were medium sized, but some were huge. At the foot of these trees were fallen leaves in striking reds, oranges and yellows. They were so beautiful I took a photo. The leaves are kind of oval in shape with an tapering tip, and the edges are scalloped or serrated. What is this tree?
They were imported around 1905 to be an economic crop. As usual, the price of Hawaiian land and labor got in the way. When the tree was introduced it was seeded all over Tantalus, on wet parts of Maui, and in other denuded forest areas in desperate forestation attempts.
These trees can grow to 60 feet and taller and live 200 years. They are a tropical American native, as you can surmise from the brasiliensis name, but are planted all over Asia. Para rubber is in the euphorbia family. Other members of this family are kukui, poinsettia, cassava or tapioca, macaranga, croton, castor bean, Jacob's coat and the native Hawaiian forest trees mehame or antidesma, and mehamehame or neowawrea, and the shrub 'akoko.
Landscape architect Paul Weissich and I will be leading a seminar on designing wisely with plants in your landscape. The "Plants for the Home Landscape" classes will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. March 22 and 29 in the lecture room of the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden visitor education center.
On March 22, Weissich will present the best selection of ground covers, shrubs and small trees, palms, bromeliads, ferns and cycads for the small garden.
The March 29 class will explore medium and large trees, night gardening, lanai gardening, landscaping with natives, gardening with less-thirsty plants, and the use of hardscapes solid garden features such as walkways and walls to enhance landscape design and ease maintenance.
A mini plant sale will be held after the March 29 lecture. The sale is free and open to the public. The plants were raised by Ho'omaluhia volunteers.
There also is a hands-on gardening series at Ho'omaluhia. The series, "Eight Steps to a Healthy Garden," begins April 5 and runs through May 31.
Call 537-1708 to register.
They looked like bright red flowers as we approached, driving down Pali Highway into town, but they were the glorious leaves of the tropical almond or false kamani, Terminalia catalpa.
The two huge specimens just mauka of the Queen Emma summer palace had spectacular leaves, reminiscent of the colors of autumn on the Mainland.
I have also noticed other tropical almonds around town undergoing this phenomenon.
Usually, you can find one or two of the bright-red orange, aging leaves on a tree, but this time nearly all of the leaves are a traffic-stopping red.
Enjoy this ephemeral sign of a Hawaiian spring a nice sight for commuters on the Pali and around the Islands.
Heidi Bornhorst is a sustainable-landscape consultant.