Field trip to Pōhakuloa Training Area

It has been a whirlwind two weeks. Sometimes a lot happens in many areas of our lives’ activities, all in a short timeframe. I use the adjective “bursty.” For this post, I’m just going to focus on our Master Gardener field trip and a little photo montage of the burst of coffee flowering we got right before Easter, thanks to some decent rain at the end of a mostly dry March.

We have almost completed our Master Gardener training. It has been tremendously interesting. Though we haven’t graduated, our class has already been invited to join the monthly meetings of the “real” Master Gardeners. April was special since we had an invitation to visit the Pōhakuloa Training Area, commonly referred to as PTA, on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Rd.), between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. From the army’s website, “PTA provides a quality joint/combined arms facility that provides logistics, public works, airfield support, and environmental and cultural stewardship in support of the U.S. Army Pacific training strategy while maintaining an enduring partnership with the local Hawaiian community.”

Apparently there is a Natural Resource Program at PTA that manages threatened and endangered species. I found this old article from 2010 about PTA in particular. To get on the Master Gardener visitor list, we had to provide our full names as they appear on our government-issued ID. And if we came by car, the driver had to have all the various paperwork (vehicle registration, safety check paperwork, and proof of insurance).

It was raining pretty steadily, so we only got to see the greenhouse. Still, I found what the PTA Botanic Program Manager talked about fascinating. I didn’t take notes, so I can’t remember it all. We were provided with a book about the plants at the end. I was hoping it would’ve explained more about the program. The book is from 1997, but most of the information still applies. The species count have probably changed.

There were a few plants that had official signs listing their status as Threatened or Endangered. I was imagining the signs were for when high level military, state or federal government visitors came to look at the work being done. The Botanic Program Manager is actually an employee of Colorado State University. The “Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) has supported military readiness and resource conservation on federal lands.”

The plants themselves didn’t look all that impressive. Many looked weedy. In the photo gallery below, there’s a photo of schiedea hawaiienesis. I found this description on a governmental site, “Schiedea hawaiiensis (ma ̄ ‘oli’oli), a short-lived perennial herb in the pink family (Caryophyllaceae), is known only from the island of Hawai’i (Wagner et al. 2005c, pp. 92-96). Historically, S. hawaiiensis was known from a single site between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea mountains in the montane dry ecosystem (Hillebrand 1888, p. 33; Wagner et al. 2005c, pp. 92-96).”

There is a LOT of red tape for the plants. They have to get permission for what they plant out on the PTA grounds and when. None of the plant matter is allowed off the grounds. They don’t want any of the plants to cross breed, dilute their genetic material, or develop outside of their native habitat. One of our fellow Master Gardeners shared with me that she had worked in a commercial greenhouse, so it was really interesting for her to be in a greenhouse with a completely different purpose and important mission.

The manager had to very carefully observe these plants. What makes them thrive or fail to thrive? When do they flower and produce seed? How long can they be in the greenhouse environment? What do they need when they’re planted out? What are the dangers out in the big world? They sometimes have to clear some areas to plant their greenhouse babies. And they have to go back out in the field to check on them on some periodic basis. He also talked a bit about the extensive fencing they have that keeps out the ungulates. Well, it’s a military training site, so they have to keep all kinds of things out, like civilians.

I’ll close with some coffee photos from April 7. This year’s fruit looks so much more bountiful than last year’s, and the blossoming season isn’t yet over. Yay!

One thought on “Field trip to Pōhakuloa Training Area

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *