Hawaii’s Mountain Apples

If you were born/raised in Hawaii, you probably grew up eating Mountain Apples on occasion…often coming across a wild tree while hiking in the Ko’olau Mountains or if you’re lucky, you have a tree in your backyard.  I was not born or raised in Hawaii, but first tasted the deliciousness of a Mountain Apple while hiking to Ka’u Crater.  To me, they resemble the texture and taste of a pear, with a hint of pine. :P  I am lucky to have friends who have a Mountain Apple tree in their yard, and was able to pick several recently and indulge in the deliciousness.  Here are a few photos I snapped of the unique fruits…

Although the tree resembles any other fruit tree, the fruits are bizarre to look at – some growing (like normal) out of twigs while others grow straight out of the side of large branches.

Ohia Ai Hawaii

Mountain Apples or O’hia ‘Ai growing on tree, Oahu, Hawaii.

The fresh-picked fruit are vivid in color, but do not last long, so eat up!

Ohia Ai Fruit

Fresh-picked ripe Mountain Apple fruit, Oahu, Hawaii.

Fruit O'hia 'Ai

Sliced Mountain Apple Fruit, Oahu, Hawaii.

Next time you are hiking in the mountains of Hawaii, be sure to look out for one of these trees!  Check out more photos at:

http://charmian.zenfolio.com/hawaiimountainapples

If you like my photos, like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/charmianphoto

#hawaiianfood #hilife #mountainapples #tropicalfruit

Hidden Hawaiian Native Volcanic Plants: Berries

Pukiawe Berry plant (Styphelia tameiameiae) - native (indigenous) to the Hawaiian Islands.

Pukiawe Berry plant (Styphelia tameiameiae) – native (indigenous) to the Hawaiian Islands. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

While living on Hawaii’s Big Island (Hawai’i Island) in 2013 and 2014, I was able to see a much more obvious abundance of native Hawaiian foliage than on Oahu and as a result, became very interested in it.  I started reading up on the different types of native plants and trees that I might encounter in different areas on the island, and began adventuring to try and discover as much as I could.

I must first state that I greatly respect Hawaiian land, fauna and flora; I try to be careful to “watch my step” as I explore nature, so that I do not mistakenly trample any plants on my way.  I believe that nature is most beautiful in it’s natural environment, so do not support the act of “picking” or taking home souvenirs of this content, except in photos! :)  My hopes are to enhance other people’s appreciation and knowledge of these living things without encouraging exploration destruction of native scenery and/or life.  If I do encourage you to seek out native plants and wildlife, please do so respectfully – as not to disrupt the natural environment while exploring the beauty! :)  Okay, now on with my experience….

One winter stormy morning in Waimea (Kamuela), my boyfriend and I checked the Mauna Kea webcams and found that it was snowing on the summit.  Having waiting several months for this, we immediately jumped in the car and headed up Kohala Mountain to try and get a good viewpoint of the sunrise over snowy Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  We were greeted with many clouds, and a hard-to-decipher summit (against the bright white sky).  As you can see in the picture below, the snowy mountain tops are hard to distinguish from the sky and clouds.

Snow on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at Sunrise, View from Waimea (Kamuela), Big Island, Hawaii.

Snow on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at Sunrise, View from Waimea (Kamuela), Big Island, Hawaii. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

Without a great picture opportunity here, we jumped back in the car and instead decided to take a trip up towards the mountains in hopes of getting some cheesy “snow in Hawaii” shots.  However, while taking the new branch of Saddle Road – dubbed “Daniel K. Inouye” highway up the mountain, it was clear (or, not so clear…haha) that the storm was continuing to brew over the mountains, bringing in more cloud cover.

Snow storm over Mauna Kea, View from Daniel K. Inouye highway, Saddle Road, Big Island, Hawaii.

Snow storm over Mauna Kea, View from Daniel K. Inouye highway, Saddle Road, Big Island, Hawaii. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

We continued to trekk on, just to be sure we wouldn’t miss anything.  The road to the summit of Mauna Kea was closed, so instead of wasting a trip, we went in the opposite direction towards Mauna Loa.  While Mauna Loa may seem somewhat unpicturesque, lacking majestic mountain peaks and steep grade, it’s important to note that it’s Hawaii’s most massive mountain and second-tallest, reaching 13,678 feet in elevation above sea level.

Snow storm over Mauna Loa at sunrise, Big Island, Hawaii.

Sunrise over snow-capped Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

Mauna Loa is an active volcano, thus is mostly surrounded by vast lava rock fields of different flows from various years.  Unlike Mauna Kea (Hawaii’s tallest mountain), there is no drivable road to the summit of Mauna Loa; there are two roads that will take you partially up on different sides of the mountain, and hiking trails beyond to the actual summit.  On this particular trip, we took Mauna Loa Observatory Road, in hopes of getting a wide-angle view looking back at snowy Mauna Kea.

View of snow storm over Mauna Kea - viewed from Mauna Loa Observatory Road, Big Island, Hawaii.

View of snow storm over Mauna Kea – viewed from Mauna Loa Observatory Road, A’a lava rock fields and native flora, Big Island, Hawaii. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

Since Mauna Kea continued to stay in storm-mode, we started taking notice of our more immediate surroundings.  Take a look at the above picture, and you’ll see that the environment seems pretty desolate, and includes old a’a lava (a type of lava having a rough jagged surface) rock from various former flows – some stemming back to even the mid-1800’s.  But take a closer look and you’ll notice plants sprouted here and there amid the desolation.

'Aiakanene or Kukaenene or Nene Berry (Coprosma ernodeoides); Native (endemic) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

‘Aiakanene or Kukaenene or Nene Berry (Coprosma ernodeoides); Native (endemic) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

Even more interesting, is that this lava rock terrain provides the perfect environment for native Hawaiian flora, which is apparent with various native plants speckled across this landscape.  It’s important to distinguish between an indigenous native plant and an endemic native plant.  Indigenous to Hawaii defines an organism that is native to Hawaii but can be found elsewhere.  Endemic to Hawaii defines an organism that is native to Hawaii and can ONLY be naturally found in Hawaii.  Many people associate Hawaiian flora with tropical plants like Red Ginger, Bird of Paradise, the Plumeria tree, the Banana tree, etc…but these are not native at all – while they thrive in Hawaii, they are alien species to the Hawaiian Islands.  Hence, it was a treat to see such an abundance of truly native Hawaiian plant life along Mauna Loa Observatory Road, though it may not be your stereotypical tropical paradise.  Take a look at the next few pictures of native Hawaiian berries I found amid the a’a lava rock fields…

The Hawaiian endemic `Ohelo Berry (Vaccinium reticulatum) thrives in harsh rocky environments; it is edible and is a big part of the Hawaiian Nene Goose‘s diet.  There are other berries that resemble the `Ohelo Berry but are poisonous, so don’t try it if you’re not 100% sure what it is! :)

Red and Yellow Ohelo Berry - native hawaiian plant

‘Ohelo Berry (Vaccinium reticulatum) in red and yellow colors – Hawaiian Native (endemic) plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii. © PhotographyByCharmian.com

The Hawaiian indigenous Pukiawe (Styphelia tameiameiae) berry plant is bright pink in color, but is often bleached white by the sunlight.  From my experience in Hawaii, it is one of the most common native plants – I even see it in high elevation areas of Oahu.

Pukiawe plant (Styphelia tameiameiae) - native (indigenous) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

Pukiawe plant (Styphelia tameiameiae) – native (indigenous) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

The Hawaiian endemic `Aiakanene or Kukaenene (Coprosma ernodeoides) berry plant is positively stunning among the barren lava rock fields.  It is as if black pearls float atop leafy crowns; but with this berry, nothing must die in order to produce the same beauty that a black pearl possesses.  On a more humorous note, the English translation of the Hawaiian word “Kukaenene” means Nene dung – since this berry is also a common part of the Nene Goose diet, and well, resembles the dark round pellets of Nene poop…yeah.

'Aiakanene or Kukaenene or Nene Berry (Coprosma ernodeoides); Native (endemic) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

‘Aiakanene or Kukaenene or Nene Berry (Coprosma ernodeoides); Native (endemic) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

The Hawaiian indigenous Aalii or Hopseed Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) is very common throughout dry areas of the Big Island of Hawaii.  It can be spotted in high country areas above Waikoloa, Waimea, and along Saddle Road.  It is easily identified by the white to pinkish-red triangular shaped capsules that encase the seeds.

Hawaiian Hopseed Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) - native (indigenous) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

Hawaiian Hopseed Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) – native (indigenous) Hawaiian plant growing among lava rocks on Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii.

There are of course a large amount of other native Hawaiian plants, but these were the four that really seemed to flourish along Mauna Loa Observatory Road – ironically all touting mainly berries and/or seeds.

To see more photos from my adventures involving Native Hawaiian flora, visit Photography By Charmian’s Hawaiian Native Plant Gallery.  This gallery is still a work in progress! :)

To learn more details about Native Hawaiian foliage, visit nativeplants.hawaii.edu

Mahalo for taking the time to read this and view my photos!!! :D

Photographing Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Oahu is a busy island…people often refer to it as “the city island” because it is so densely populated and contains the most city elements of all the Hawaiian Islands.  Many tourists now prefer to steer clear of Oahu just because of it’s “lost paradise” reputation.  Yes there are skyscrapers, there is traffic, there are business-oriented people, and there is a large homeless population.  But if you were to take all of that away, you would actually have one of the most beautifully amazing islands in the Hawaiian chain.

Diamond Head and Honolulu

Overlooking part of the populated Diamond Head / Honolulu city area…about 15 minutes from Koko Crater.

Oahu is still full of beauty…I believe that tourists too often just get “stuck” in Waikiki, and fail to actually visit some of the most amazing things you will see in Hawaii – still contained on Oahu!  As a photographer, I am always looking for those special places; after about 8 years of living on Oahu, I am still discovering the beauty.  Since I live in East Oahu, I am close to tourist attractions such as Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head, but many don’t realize that just 5-10 minutes away from these popular destinations are other amazing “hidden” places.  For example, just a couple minutes from Hanauma Bay is volcanic Koko Crater – it’s right there and an amazing landmark….but it’s most-likely not something you would read about in your tourist guides.  Then again it’s not exactly unheard of either.

Hanauma Bay and Koko Crater

Hanauma Bay (left) and Koko Crater (right)…these places are right next to each other. In fact, Hanauma Bay is a cove in the middle of Koko Head, which extends out into the ocean from Koko Crater.

So going even further, a fantastic but not exactly popular site to see is Koko Crater Botanical Garden…one of the most unique botanical gardens I’ve ever been to in my life.  The garden is actually located in the center of Koko Crater…accessed through through Kalama Valley, you can easily spend a couple hours exploring the loop trail and a multitude of foliage.

Hiker at top of Koko Crater rim.  Botanical gardens below inside the crater (lower left) and ocean coastline.

Hiker at top of Koko Crater rim. Looking at the lower left of this photo, you get a glimpse of the botanical gardens inside the crater.

Inside Koko Crater Gardens

The cliffs inside of volcanic Koko Crater (top); Path through Plumeria trees (bottom left) and Cactus gardens (bottom right).

I often spend an afternoon at Koko Crater Botanical Garden photographing the vast grove of plumeria trees – so many colors and varieties.  In the right season, the bougainvillea plants are vibrant walls of color and fallen Plumeria blossoms carpet the ground.  Or passing on I come to gardens of different cacti and other desert plants like Agave.

Varieties of Bougainvillea in bloom (left), and Plumeria blooms carpeting the ground under the trees.

Varieties of Bougainvillea in bloom (left), and Plumeria blooms carpeting the ground under the trees.

Agave and Plumeria Flowers

Agave plant and blossoming white Plumeria cluster on tree.

Walking along a quiet path with birds singing from the treetops, I come upon a Hala (Pandanus) tree.  Very common in Hawaii, the leaves of the Hala are stripped of their thorns and used to weave floor mats, containers and hats.  The word for “leaf” in Hawaiian is “lau”, so if you’ve heard of “Lauhala” mats, when put together means that the mat is made out of “hala leaves”.

Hala Tree and Lauhala on the Ground

Hala tree and “lauhala” (meaning Hala Leaves in Hawaiian) on the ground.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden separates plants, trees and flowers by geographic location – Americas, Africa, Hawaii, etc.  While strolling the loop trail, you will often venture upon plant life that you’ve never seen before (at least in Hawaii) that blow your mind.  Needless to say, you won’t be at a loss if you enjoy nature.

White Flower and Green Tree Bark at Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Large-flowered Argemone and the bark of a Bombax Ceiba tree.

There is even a crater rim hike for the very experienced hiker, that goes up out of the garden and up around the rim edges of Koko Crater – definitely not for the faint of heart (like me).  In my opinion, this place is a gem!  To see more photos of my excursions at/near Koko Crater, view HERE.