Tag Archives: Silk Oaks

A new route up Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a

A view of PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii
Williwilli flowers at PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a is a cinder cone on the slopes of Hualalai volcano. The name means “many-furrowed hill,” and it’s a place I like to walk at least once a year, but it had been a while since I was up there. Usually, I go there in the spring when Jacarandas and other flowers are blooming. I also try to go in the early morning, since the area tends to cloud up during the day and the wonderful views become obscured.

A couple of weeks ago I made a late decision to do the hike again since the weather looked unusually good. I got there around 2pm and it will come as no surprise that I spent the first 15 minutes of the hike taking photos of Williwilli flowers on a tree about 20 feet from where I parked! (More of those in a few days.)

Silk oak flowers at PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

The trail follows an old road up the hill past Silk Oak trees, at the tail end of their flowering and sporting a deep red hue I hadn’t seen before. Turn around, and there are good views of Maui to be had. The old road peters out near an old blockhouse, now lacking doors and windows, which offers shelter to livestock on the ranch here. Off to one side is an old quarry, which cuts into the side of the hill. Usually there are goats in this area, but I didn’t see any on this day. Farther up is what’s left of Tamaki Corral, which dates back around 100 years.

Not far after the corral, the trail climbs steeply toward the top. This was where I found a change in the trail. Whereas before the trail was an out-and-back up a steep slope to the top, now a loop has been created. I took this new option to the top where, on this remarkably clear late afternoon, I had great views of Maui, Kohala Mountain, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai. A new sign at the top welcomes hikers to the nearly 4,000 foot summit, and there’s a survey marker at the top riddled with holes, not from gunfire, but to let the wind blow through. There are also a couple of benches where one can sit a while enjoying the views (weather permitting). The hike is steep in places, but not difficult, though not everyone makes it back alive!

I followed the old trail back down and ran into several sheep, which have the run of the land up here, as the sun dipped behind the ridge.

One other difference I noticed with this afternoon hike was the proliferation of birds. There were large numbers of finches, mostly Saffron Finches flitting about, preparing to roost for the evening. Yellow-fronted Canaries were all over the tree tobacco flowers. I also saw, and heard, several Erckel’s Francolins doing their usual fine job of blending in with the vegetation.

And as I walked back down the hill towards my car, the late afternoon sun still shone, illuminating grasses alongside the trail.

Grasses on PuuWaaWaa, Hawaii

Posted for Jo’s Monday Walk. See more walks here.

Silk oak flowers

Silk oaks (Grevillea robusta) come from Australia’s east coast, but are well established here. Rather too well actually. They’re fast growers and can outcompete native species, in particular ohia trees. In some places, silk oaks will have their trunks ringed to kill the tree in order to give those native species a better chance of survival.

At this time of year, silk oaks are blooming and their orange flowers put on a brilliant display. They look like giant toothbrushes, or rather groups of flowers look like that, for the toothbrushes are made up of many individual flowers. The flowers themselves are popular with birds, bees and other insects, but both the flowers and wood can cause allergic reactions so have to be handled with caution.

Signs: Christa’s swing

I don’t know who Christa is or was, but there were a couple of things that struck me about this image.

The sign and the swing’s rope and seat were in excellent condition in stark contrast to the tree, which was dying and deliberately so. The channel around the trunk, below the sign, is intended to kill the tree, probably a silk oak, which can take over and crowd out native trees.

And then there’s the location, not far from the old quarry near the foot of Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a. It’s more than a mile down the hill to the nearest habitation, a ranch that runs livestock in this area. So, an isolated spot for Christa’s playground, but a wonderful location too, with views to the Pacific and surrounded by birds and animals, both domestic and wild.

Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Playground.’ See more responses here.

Better Days: Girdled tree

A dead tree stands out on Pu'u Wa'awa'a

This dead tree on the slopes of Pu’u Wa’awa’a did not die of natural causes. The pale strip near the bottom of the trunk is where the tree was girdled.

The tree is, I’m pretty sure, a silk oak. Native to Australia, these trees were introduced to Hawaii around 1880. When in bloom, they present a mass of brilliant orange flowers, but they seed prolifically and also produce an allelopathic substance that inhibits the growth of other plants. Because of this, they can crowd out native plants, of which there are many on Pu’u Wa’awa’a, so trees in areas where they have become too dense or are not wanted, are girdled.

For more information about Pu’u Wa’awa’a and its trails, go to puuwaawaa.org.