Rare plant collection on display at Waimea Valley

Jade Eckardt

NORTH SHORE—On June 30, 2006, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs became the legal owner of Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore. The new ownership was a result of months of negotiation after the Honolulu City Council considered a settlement the previous year, amidst community protest, that would have subdivided the valley.

Title transferred to Hiipaka, LLC in 2007 as part of an organizational design to facilitate and care for the valley, providing opportunities for the community to care for Waimea Valley. The valley has it’s own Ogasawara Garden Collection and is the only other place in the world that many of the endemic plants reside outside of their home in the Ogasawara Islands. 

This year the Japanese government will recommend the Ogasawara Islands be nominated for a World Natural Heritage distinction. The World Heritage List includes 911 properties around the globe that the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal cultural and natural value. 

Waimea Valley’s Ogasawara Garden collection is home to 5% of the flora endemic to Ogasawara and is only found in the North Shore’s sacred valley and Japan. The Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the Ogasawara Islands, are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, approximately 1,000 km south of Tokyo. 

First inhabited in 1830, the Bonin Islands have been subjected to human disturbance for the past 170 years. An American named Nathaniel Savory, upon request of the British Consul in Honolulu, established additional supply stations where fresh water, food and ship repairs could be accomplished for the whaling industry in the North Pacific.

The settlers, which included twenty-five Hawaiians, harvested produce and used a unique method of irrigation trenches that brought fresh water to a flat piece of land. The Hawaiians soon had taro patches thriving and built a village of grass shacks using a type of palm leaf similar to the fan palm.

The flora of the Bonin Islands is noted for a high degree of endemism. Out of approximately 500 species, the endemism rate is approximately 67 percent; just over 75 percent of the native tree species, 73 of 97 species, are believed to be endemic.

The following are rare types of flora that can be found in the Waimea Valley Ogasawara Island Collection:

Hibiscus glaber/ Teriha-Hamabo- The binding fibers were used to build outrigger canoes “monten-Boku” and the juice from the bark prongs has a pleasant scent. It was a valuable timber tree.                           
Clematis boninensi/Munin-Seninsos- Endemic, typically a temperate genus, but is also subtropical.

Clinostigma Savoryana/ Noyshi- Rare palm known throughout Pacific Islands. The plant was named after Nathaniel Savory, an early colonizer of Hawaiian ancestry. Endangered young tips were eaten during WWII and rats eat the seeds.         

Lobelia boninensis/ Ō-Hama-Gikyo- Part of original seed collection in 1978. Annually seeds from the original collection is taken from storage and continue
to germinate even after 31 years.
Pandanus boninensis/ Screw pine- Orange fruit when ripe, similar to common Pacific Tako-no-ki Species-lauhala.

Trichosanthes boninensis- Rare and endemic cucumber, frilly white flowers with oval fruit. Flowers are night blooming.