Tag Archives: Saddle Road

Amaumau fern

The amaumau fern (Sadleria cyatheoides) is endemic to Hawaii and grows in a variety of areas from wet forests to recent lava flows. I saw these on the Powerline Trail, off of Saddle Road, where the elevation is above 5,000 feet.

These ferns are quite common, but on this day, the color of the new growth really caught my eye. New fiddles are orange to red, changing to green with age. In these photos, the various stages of growth can be seen. These ferns were low growing, but they can also take the form of a tree fern with an upright, trunk-like appearance.

Pinkhead smartweed

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘The Color Pink.’ See more responses here.

Pinkhead smartweed (Polygonum capitatum or Persicaria capitata) is a groundcover that hails from western China and the Himalayas. It’s variously known as pinkhead knotweed, pink knotweed, Japanese knotweed, pink-headed persicaria, or pink bubble persicaria. I use pinkhead smartweed for the very good reason that I like the name. It sounds like the name of someone pretentious, but slightly seedy, from the alleged upper crust of society.

In this bounty of names, a couple of elements stand out. One is ‘pink,’ the other is ‘weed.’ This is a very pink plant and, in Hawaii and elsewhere, an invasive weed. Drive eastbound over Saddle Road (officially Hawaii Route 200, the Daniel K. Inouye Highway) and, once you cross the saddle and begin your descent, this plant will become obvious very quickly. It lines the road on both sides for several miles with very little in the way of other plants competing for that space. This is because pinkhead smartweed will grow in poor ground and lava fields fit that description.

This is also a stretch of highway that, relatively recently, was converted from a narrow, winding road, that rental car companies routinely forbid their clients from driving on, to a wide, smooth thoroughfare, the only place on the island where you can legally go 60 mph, and where you can expect to receive a ticket if you go 80 mph like everybody else.

Redoing the road left verges of rock and gravel and very little else. Pinkhead smartweed was quick to move in and colonize this unpromising territory so that now the descent toward Hilo begins with pleasing pink borders.

The top photo shows the rugged kind of ground pinkhead smartweed can grow in. To the right, bees appreciate the flowers of this plant growing at an elevation over 5,000 feet. Below, the collapse of a lava tube has left a shady hole where pinkhead smartweed, an endemic amaumau fern, and an ohia tree have established a good foothold.

Powerline Trail

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

Last week, I revisited the Powerline Trail off of Saddle Road. This trail, when combined with the Pu’u O’o Trail, makes a good long loop hike. I like hiking the Pu’u O’o Trail because it passes through several kipukas (patches of old forest that have been spared by lava flows) and those kipukas have lots of birds living in them.

The Powerline Trail is a bit less interesting. There are fewer kipukas and it’s a long, exposed hike in a straight line across the lava. The reason for this can be found in the name. It follows an old 4-wheel drive road that serviced a power line that ran across the lava fields. The line is gone, but the sawn-off stumps of power poles can be seen alongside the trail (to the right of the trail in the top photo, to the left in the bottom photo).

One advantage the Powerline Trail has over the Pu’u O’o Trail can be seen in the bottom photo. This was near the end of my hike in the mid-afternoon as clouds closed in. It’s not unusual for this part of the saddle to be shrouded in thick fog and, if you happen to be out hiking in those conditions, the straight and clear Powerline Trail is much easier to follow than the Pu’u O’o Trail which, crossing the lava fields, can be hard to follow when you can’t see the cairns that mark its route.

The trail, of course, isn’t perfectly straight (though I suspect the power line was). It bumps around lava upwellings and collapsed tubes. But most of the time, one just needs to look up to see, straight ahead in the distance, the faint pale thread of the trail topping a hill or emerging from a dip in the landscape.