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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

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Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
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Registered: September 2008
City/Town/Province: Charlottesville
Posts: 1
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Why Plant Sandalwood?

The top of the mountain where my grandmother lives in Hawaii was stripped of its native Sandalwood forests when the Hawaiian royalty sold off the trees in the late 1800’s to finance their version of European nobility. That was not the height of Hawaiian culture. Historic accounts of those days tell of how the common people were forced to abandon their farming and fishing activities, and how widespread misery and hunger followed. They had to forage though the decimated forests for food, while the sandalwood trade provided a fortune to the royalty. They built Ioloni Palace and consolidated their empire. Little did the ruling elite realize that in embracing European values they doomed their culture and a self-governing Hawaii. Even now the majority those of Hawaiian descent, disenfranchised as they may be, have bought into the values of western culture.

My reintroducing sandalwood to the forest was a symbolic gesture of restoring balance to Hawaii’s culture and ecology. Most the native forest in the mountains behind Honolulu has been replaced by scrub and exotics. Non-native species such as eucalyptus, banyan and guava flourish. Only a few native kukui nut, koa, hibiscus and ohia trees survive. Sandalwood was a unique and very symbolic plant here once. For that reason I chose to reintroduce this native tree to its original habitat.

Sandalwood has a symbiotic relationship with a host plant that is just being understood by those who are tying to reestablish it. It requires a host that increases the nitrogen content of the surrounding soil. Where my grandmother lives the giant Koa trees had been the hosts. Unfortunately a recently introduced, small boring beetle has killed off most the trees. Only a few old ones remain standing; I could find no new seedlings. So following the lead of a local nursery in Kaneohe Bay I planted a small sandalwood tree and a native ilima shrub, which now fixes the nitrogen content in the soil. The ilima shows up in the photos as the branches with pale orange flowers. The sandalwood tree (just a small bush now) has the spear-shaped leaves.

The relationship of the sandalwood tree to its host a recalls old Hawaii. The high culture, ruling elite, the ali'i, could not have survived or flourished without the support of the lower class. Perhaps the tree will give shade to the shrub below and keep the soil moist. Sandalwood gives hope for a cooperative future.
· Date: September 17, 2008 · Views: 4996 · File size: 51.3kb, 373.7kb · : 1500 x 1000 ·
Hours Volunteered: 8
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17
Native Trees Planted: 3
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Registered: September 2008
City/Town/Province: monmouth junction
Posts: 3
September 23, 2008 9:26pm

I totally did the same thing but in Kona!!! It's so nice to see that people are not only preventing further destruction of forests by "cleaning up" but also "cleaning up" by clearing invasive species from an area. What you did was great and I hope you continue to do this type of work and it wasn't just a one-time-thing.

Registered: September 2008
City/Town/Province: point Pleasant
Posts: 1
September 29, 2008 9:33pm

I really enjoyed your essay! I am transferring to the University of Hawaii at Manoa this spring. It is great to see someone with such respect for their culture.