Why is landscaping our homes with Hawaii native plants so important?
Did you know that Hawaii is known as the endangered species capital of the world?
It’s a complicated story, one for history books, but here are a few reasons why:
For 200-plus years Hawaii residents have been buying or bringing in non-native plants, animals and insects that have taken over the natural landscape.
Most plants that were here prior to Captain Cook’s arrival were hosts to native bird or insect species. So many native birds and important insects are endangered or extinct is because their food source or host plant is rare or gone.
Biologists call this “loss of habitat” and we residents are largely responsible for this problem.
Want to do one simple thing that will help Hawaii’s plants, insects and birds survive?
Do I hear yes?
Ok then- Plant a few native species in your yard or land.
See the perfect example of native plants in my woodcut print above, “Rainforest Dance.” The Kamehameha butterfly lays it’s eggs on the mamaki plant and the caterpillars then voraciously consume leaves until it’s time to make a cocoon. The only plants that will feed the Kamehameha caterpillar are a few natives in the Urticaceae family. Mamaki is the most common, and is super-easy to grow if you live in a wettish region. Plus, you’ll be able to harvest some for yourself. Mamaki is an important medicinal tea that combats vog symptoms.
Here’s How to Add Natives to Your Land or Yard:
Instead of going to Walmart to buy pretty plants, visit your local native plant nursery.
People who own these nurseries are passionate about their work and will help you get plants that are right for your environment.
Listen Rick Barboza talk about 5 easy to grown native plants in this University of Hawaii video.
Full disclosure- I’m better at creating native species art than I am in growing actual plants. Even so, here is my native species catalog for my farm:
- Lots of Kukui trees
- 3 ‘Ohi’a trees ( I love them!)
- Laua’e fern
- Moi – grasslike plant
- Awapuhi ginger
- Ilima – sometimes when it pops up.
- Loulu palm- highly endangered
So, off you go!
Amble around your yard or land and notice where you’d like to see color and beautiful shapes. Take some photos and then pay a visit to your nearby native plant nursery and ask for landscaping advice.
Two more ways you can help:
- If you love Hawaii, but have a black thumb like me, you can still help by contributing to conservation organizations that directly save many endangered species through reforestation efforts.Check out Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Kona and the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. These are great places to visit and learn more about Hawaii’s natural environment.
- You can support Hawaii artists who focus their work around native species. When you purchase our art you are funding the time and energy it requires for us to tell the story of the life of the land. Hawaii artists invest a huge amount of time and resources researching our subjects so we can inspire and educate people. Many of these artists (like yours truly) donate art to conservation organization fundraisers. The health of the ‘aina (land) is our passion! Check out the Hawaii Nei Native Species Art Competition which hosts an art exhibition annually at Wailoa Center. “Rainforest Dance” the original woodcut print above is available through my website: https://andreapro.com/
Kuleana is a Hawaiian value and practice which means responsibility. It speaks to reciprocity and our responsibility to what sustains us. I hope my thoughts have given you all some ideas on how we can all give back to the land we love.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 808-345-0907 and I’m happy to talk with you.