Ua nani ka noho a Waipuhia
E hooma`u nei i ke oho palai
"Beautiful is the resting place of Waipuhia wind
That wets the palapalai fern"
There is something soothing about a stand of palapalai ferns. Perhaps it is the vibrant green, or the lacy softness they add to the landscape. And it doesn't hurt that the fine hairs on the fronds sparkle in sunlight that filters to the forest floor. Interesting that the early Hawaiians used the fern as a treatment for hehena (translation: insanity) according to the Hawaiian Enthnobotany online database. Palapalai is also valued as a plant sacred to the hula goddess Laka, and softly encircles the head, wrists, and ankles of the dancers of hula kahiko.
As with other ferns, palapalai are valuable because they help retain moisture and humidity while enriching the soil. They prefer shady spots, though they can tolerate some sun, and are useful for weed and erosion control. Growing up to three feet in height with a five to six foot spread, palapalai are native to Hawaii and Southeast Asia. Known as Microlepia strigosa to botanists, the fern is a member of the family Dennstaedtiaceae, the Bracken Fern family. Like others in its family, the palapalai's fronds are highly divided into leaflets, called pinnae. On fertile fronds, the reproductive structures, called spores, are found in casings called sporangia. These, in turn, can clump together in what are known as sori. On the palapalai, you will find the sori at the margin of the leaflets (pinnae) on the underside of the frond.
Palapalai can be confused with another native lace fern: Pala'a, or Sphenomeris chinensis, which is widespread, and one you will most likely encounter trailside. This fern, which is also used in lei making, can be found on exposed banks and is quick to establish itself in disturbed sites. The best way to tell the two apart is to look for the hairs: palaplai has them, pala'a doesn't. Pala'a also is lacier and has thinner fronds.
Here's a bird that has more tweets than twitter. Meet the Red-billed Leiothrix, #red bill, #melodius song, also known as the Peking Nightingale or the Japanese Robin, though it is not native to either locale. Leiothrix lutea was popular as a cage bird, admired for its pretty plumage and dulcet vocalizations. Word got out to the Hui Manu Society and others, who introduced the leiothrix to Kaua'i in 1918, and later to O'ahu, Moloka'i, Maui, and Hawai'i. The populations thrived initially, but forty years or so later, the numbers were in decline, so much so that in the 1970's it was extirpated on Kaua'i (became locally extinct). Populations on O'ahu also declined severely, but were in recovery mode a decade later. The birds are now fairly abundant and occupy a wide range of elevations.
You are likely to run into Leiothrix when hiking in moist to wet forests with a thick understory, where you will often hear them long before you see them. They're a bit secretive but will chitter and twitter to one another as they flit from branch to branch. Then, a flash of their red bill, and you've sighted them. Admire their attractive plumage: an olive-green cap and bright orange-yellow throat; an olive-green body with wingtips dipped in yellow, orange, red and black. The tail is forked and fringed in black. They dine mainly on insects and fruits, and are most often seen no higher than fifteen feet off the ground.
Seeing as these creatures are soft and slow, and without the spiny protection of their cousins, you might think they are easy pickings, but sea cucumbers have a arsenal of defenses. Their squishable bodies allow them to tuck under rocks and in small crevices. Some simply taste bad due to noxious chemicals in their skin. But here's something unique: some cukes expel Cuvierian tubules from their anus - sticky threads that entangle predators, and may be accompanied by the release of a toxin called holothurin. Take that! And just in case, some sea cukes can also eviscerate, which essentially means that they can expel some of their insides, sneak away, and then spend a good portion of time regenerating.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.