Protect, Preserve, Plant

Protecting and preserving mature native trees is as important as planting new ones for restoration. That’s because mature trees are part of an established ecosystem that holds massive amounts of carbon, and houses irreplaceable biodiversity and even endangered species. They can withstand storms, natural disasters, and pests. Sadly, the world is losing countless mature trees to deforestation and other reasons. Many organizations, including Aloha Tree Alliance (ATA), are committed to planting new trees but realize it does take time—10 years at least—for them to reach their maximum carbon sequestration rate. Like a child, young trees need nurturing and maintenance. ATA is committed to helping slow climate change by protecting, preserving Hawaii’s native trees and planting new ones to create a more sustainable future for our Islands.

Native Hawaiian Tree of the month: Wiliwili Erythrina sandwincensis

Why Wiliwili?

Magnificent survivors of the dry forest, Wiliwili is the only native member of Erythrina, a genus of about 130 species worldwide and more or less collectively known as coral trees.

Currently, this beautiful tree is at risk of being endangered. Wiliwili has many important uses in Hawaiian culture and plays a critical role in the forest ecosystem such as providing habitat for native birds.

Planting Wiliwili

If you have wiliwili seeds, you can propagate them by scarifying the seeds. To scar the seeds, take some sand paper and rub the outside of the seeds to penetrate the seed pod. This will help water reach the seed and ensure better success when you plant it. Plant your seed in new, well-drained potting media, (1 part perlite to 1 part sterile potting mix) in 3 inch pots. This will help minimize root damage during transplanting. Place in a sunny area, and refrain from overwatering as seedlings as susceptible to fungus and diseases.

Fun Facts!

Erythrina is from the Greek erythros, red, in reference to the flower color of many species.

Wili is to twist, screw or wind. Wiliwili means twist-twist or repeatedly twisted referring to the seed pods that twist to expose brightly colored seeds.

Earlier Hawaiians believed that when wiliwili were flowering along

the coast, sharks were most likely to bite.

Extremely light wood, it was used for canoes and fishing net floats.

It was also the preferred choice for surfboards.

The seeds and flowers are used in lei and flowers and bark were used in medicine. 

One of the few native deciduous trees in Hawaii, they lose their leaves during summer and put their energy to flower and seed production. Between late summer and winter, you will see blossoms from the Wiliwili trees emerge. They are outstanding not only because of their size and color, but because the leaves from the tree have fallen and showcase their ethereal beauty. The ability to photosynthesize in their bark may help them through this phase. The thin bark of wiliwili make them highly vulnerable to wildfire. In the past few decades, these amazing trees have become scarce in the wild. Let’s protect them!

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Stay Rooted!
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