Maui Diary 4 – Bright Trees and Critters

Hibiscus looks nice against volcanic rock.

For most of my life, the image that came to my mind when someone mentioned Hawaii was of beaches, and volcanoes spewing lava into the ocean. Ten years ago or so a friend visited the islands and told me about the beautiful flowers, and at that point I began to be interested.

Reading The Folding Cliffs, about the history of Kauai in a setting that highlighted the lush landscape, took my imagination further along, to the point where I was willing and interested to visit.

bougainvillea bush

If our stay on Maui had a focus, I would say it was the ocean, based on the amount of time spent, but with the flowers blooming everywhere I turned my head, I came away with my visual sense more than satisfied in that department — it was more than I could take in.

Right out our back door there were spider lilies and red ginger, and multi-colored bougainvillea trained into shrubs. Along the roads hedges of hibiscus or bougainvillea or even more extravagant flowers let us know we were in the tropics.

African Tulip Tree

The writer of the plant guide we took to Maui was clearly biased against species that were not native, or that at least had been brought from other Polynesian islands long ago, but I admit to liking many of those plants very much. The African Tulip Tree makes lovely splashes of orange against the green landscape, and it at least doesn’t seem to have spread into the weed category yet.

Bougainvillea along roadway

We’d heard reports of wild chickens being found all over Maui, and we were happy to see a lot of them on beaches, along streets, most anywhere. And other beasts who had no doubt escaped from households and barnyards generations ago.

On the drive to Hana we ate our lunch at a wayside park where a green lawn ran up the hill to a tall and thick forest — or perhaps on that rainy stretch it would be called a jungle. I spotted chickens with shiny feathers up there, and walked up to try getting a picture. It was not to be: the closest bird disappeared behind some vines, I followed as quietly as I could and peeked under the trees, to see a couple of cats lounging there with the chickens. It was just a glimpse, and then the whole inter-species family was gone from sight.

Where I saw cats and chickens

This cat sat patiently under our table while we were picnicking, and waited for us to drop a bite of sandwich. And at Honolua Bay a bright rooster in the middle of the jungle path was engrossed in pecking the meat out of a broken coconut. Many times we saw road signs warning of the approach of a pig or nene crossing. Nenes are the type of goose that is the state bird of Hawaii.

Feral chickens in Iao Valley
Common Myna

We were on the island for several days before we discovered that the perky bird we saw everywhere is the Common Myna, native to Asia but living all over the world. On a list of the 100 Most Invasive Species, there are only three birds, and the Myna is one of them. Found this picture on the Internet.

My favorite animal sighting was in the Upcountry where there are farms and ranches with jacaranda trees catching your eye with their purple flowers. We drove past a large pasture with a herd of dark cattle grazing on the green, and as many white birds as steers walking around chummily in their midst. I assume that they are what has been sensibly named the Cattle Egret.

picking mangoes

It seems that a lot of trees bearing flowers or fruits are so tall that it takes some trouble to harvest the crop. I asked the rosette-pinning woman (whom I tell about further down) if pickers use ladders to get the flowers from those tall plumeria trees, and she replied that they “mostly climb” to fetch them. Walking around Lahaina, we saw a man picking mangoes with a long pole contraption, and it’s certain one would need a ladder or good tree-climbing skills to get papayas.

tiny plumeria tree at center

Plumeria! I’m in love with plumeria. I knew of leis, of course, and I’d heard that flower mentioned, but I had to go to Hawaii to see what a plumeria blossom looks like or get intoxicated by its scent. It was a surprise to find that these sweet flowers grow on trees.

I wish I had taken a dozen more pictures of plumeria trees. Many of the taller ones look at first glance as though they are some kind of dead thing, but then you notice the flowers at the tip of every smooth and bare branch.

We went to a luau where a girl in Hawaiian dress taught female guests how to stick plumeria flowers on to a toothpick to make a rosette, which she then fastened into our hair with a bobby pin.

When we had first arrived at the luau, I was given a tuberose, which I had been carrying around for a while, so I stuck that on to my toothpick as well, and while our taste buds enjoyed the traditional foods, my nose feasted on the rose and plumeria delicacies. I already have forgotten most of the food I ate, but the memory of my fragrant rosette lives on.

4 thoughts on “Maui Diary 4 – Bright Trees and Critters

  1. It meant so much that you dropped me a line about my mother. Thank you.

    And I do enjoy hearing about your travelings and seeing your photos whether they are flora, fauna or animals.

    Your Lent and Easter writings were also appreciated.


  2. For most of my life, I've had no interest in Hawaii, mostly because the image I've had in my head is of high rise hotels at the edge of a beach and people wearing tropical print shirts. But when I saw the movie “The Descendents” this winter, I felt like I saw a whole different side of Hawaii, and now I'm intrigued. I would love to see all of the flora and fauna in person, and appreciate you sharing your pictures!



  3. Just beautiful! Though we had a papaya tree in my childhood yard, I had no idea the trees got so big! Wow! What a wonderful trip!


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