Tag Archives: Gingers

Tropical foliage

A riot of tropical foliage frames a view towards the ocean.
A single purple orchid is a spot of color against the green and brown background.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Plant Life.’ See more offerings here.

The east side of the Big Island is the place for plant life thanks to good soils, warmth, and abundant rainfall. These photos were taken on my last visit to Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden, before it closed because of the Covid-19 virus.

This doesn’t mean they’ve been slacking during the closure. Instead they appear to have launched a new name and new website. The new name is Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden and, I think reflects more of the purpose behind the garden. The new name, conveniently, means they didn’t have to change their website. It’s still htbg.com.

The new website is definitely a spiffier looking production, but it comes with a drawback. They used to have a plant database that I found very useful in identifying what I saw there. I can’t find it on the new website. Hopefully, this is just an issue with transitioning the information. Otherwise, I’ll be in a bit of difficulty.

Early Yellow beehive ginger makes colorful focal points against a backdrop of green foliage.
On the left, a deep red heliconia against large green leaves. On the right, the purple bract of anthurium schlechtendalii or pheasant’s tail.
Not all leaves are green as these colorful ti plants attest.

Gold dust day gecko on a torch ginger

There is no Sunday Stills challenge this week (or next), but the theme was going to be ‘Something Red or Green or Both!’ so I thought I’d go with the photo I had picked out for that anyway.

So here’s a very green (with red markings) gold dust day gecko resting atop a very red torch ginger surrounded by green foliage. It looks like the gecko has been in the wars judging from the rings around its tail, which suggest it has lost it a few times. The most recent regrowth is the lower brown part, which will ultimately take on a matching green color once it’s fully grown.

Kalopa State Recreation Area

I recently went hiking in the Kalōpā State Recreation Area, not far from Honoka’a, on the northern end of the island. I’d been there before, but only to check it out, so this was an opportunity to explore the trails more thoroughly. One of the treasures of this area is that it features plants that were on the island before even the native Hawaiians arrived.

The recreation area is about 100 acres, and it neighbors the 500 acre Kalōpā Forest Reserve. At an elevation of around 2,000 feet, and on the wet side of the island, it’s cool and damp. There are a variety of trails that intersect and criss cross, which allows hikers options from short loops of less than a mile, to a 6+mile hike around the perimeter.

I took one of the longer routes and it reminded me greatly of hikes I’d taken back in the Pacific Northwest where I used to live. Light rain, water dripping from the overhead canopy, ferns bordering the trail, and tall trees stretching up into a grey sky. These were all features of those hikes. Only the species were different. Eucalyptus, ohia, and kopiko instead of firs and cedars.

The photos show – Top: towering trees line the trail alongside Kalōpā Gulch. Above: A view down into Kalōpā Gulch. Flash floods often race down this gully so it’s a good idea to watch your step. Third photo: Strangler figs envelope native trees and take over resulting in weird, twisted shapes. Below: The old Jeep Road, bordered by invasive kahili ginger, cuts through the center of the area. It’s hard to imagine anyone driving this trail.

For more information about hiking in Kalōpā State Recreation Area go to bigislandhikes.com/kalopa-state-park/.

Kahili ginger

Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), a native of the Himalayas, is a gorgeous plant, which puts forth a generous display of fragrant, showy flowers. Too bad then that another description for the plant is ‘invasive weed.’ It thrives in moist areas – pretty much anywhere on the east side of the island. Its rhizomes form dense mats, and crowd out native seedlings, and birds eat the fruit and spread the seeds.

Controlling the spread of this plants requires its complete removal, but even then regular follow up is required as the plant can reestablish from dormant seeds or scraps of rhizomes left in the soil.

Costus lucanusianus

Costus lucanusianus is a native of tropical Africa. It’s also known as spiral ginger or African spiral flag. It’s related to true gingers and the ‘spiral’ in the name comes from the arrangement of the leaves on the stems.

This one was at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. For more information about Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, go to htbg.com.

Gecko on costus curvibracteatus

Gecko on Costus curvibracteatus

Gecko on Costus curvibracteatus flowerCostus curvibracteatus is also known as orange tulip ginger and hails from Costa Rica and Panama. In these photos, the overlapping red parts are the bracts and the longer orange tubular forms, emerging from between the bracts, are the flowers. However the bracts can also be orange, and the flowers a similar length as the bracts.

The plant was being explored by a gold dust day gecko, which was likely searching for something sweet or possibly seeking water trapped in the bracts.

This one was at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. For more information about Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, go to htbg.com.

Coqui frog

Coqui frog

What is there to say about the coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui)? How about KO-KEE, KO-KEE, KO-KEE, KO-KEE, KO-KEE, KO-KEE. And how about calling that out at around 100 decibels ALL NIGHT LONG.

Coquis came to the Big Island in the late 1980s, believed to be an accidental import on some plants. They hail from Puerto Rico where they’re a popular cultural symbol. But in Puerto Rico, the coqui has predators such as snakes and birds. In Hawaii, it has no predators and it’s thriving. Indeed, I recently read that supersized coquis have been found here, not the usual frogs the size of a quarter, but silver dollar sized – about 50% bigger. One theory for this is that the excellent conditions and lack of predators means the coquis live longer and thus eat more and grow bigger. Watch for ‘The Coqui That Stomped Hilo’ coming soon to a theater near you.

Suffice it to say that coquis are considered an unwanted invasive species here. Homeowners try to eradicate them because their noise is believed to lower property values. Even businesses are affected, with tourists considered less likely to want to stay in areas infested with coquis. (Ironically, while Hawaii tries to battle this mostly-loathed frog, in its native Puerto Rico this much-loved frog is threatened by a fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and coqui numbers there are in decline.)

The east side of the island, with its greater rainfall and abundant vegetation, is prime coqui habitat. The northern part of the island, where I live, is considered coqui free. What that means is that the frog is not established here and coordinated efforts are made to find and eliminate those that are heard. It’s an uphill battle. I know I hear them at night. A few weeks ago it was just one, but now that one’s call is being answered by others.

And what about that call? Well, as usual, it’s the males making all the ruckus. The call is both a warning to other males (the KO part) and an alluring come hither to females (the KEE part). With the males, one will make the call to establish his territory and then another might respond to challenge this. They keep up this call and response until one gives up, a process that can last many minutes. The loser will move on while the winning male will start over until another challenger chimes in.

I’ve heard plenty of coquis, but the one above is the first I’ve actually seen. I was visiting Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens and taking photos of a gold dust day gecko that I saw on a red ginger (Alpinia purpurata). The gecko was poking its nose into the plant looking for moisture or nectar, when there was a sudden flurry. If you look at the photo below, the reason can be seen toward the top left corner, lurking deep in the bloom. The coqui hadn’t appreciated being disturbed and seemed to nip the gecko causing it to jump back. Then the frog came out a bit farther to check the coast was clear, before returning to its hideaway.

For more information about coqui frogs in Hawaii, go to https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/coqui/index.asp.

Coqui frog and gecko