A Master Gardener at the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden

There was Kona snow this weekend, i.e., coffee tree blossoms. There should be coffee cherry to pick 210-220 days later, which means mid-August.

My Master Gardener studies are meshing very nicely at the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, (AGG) where I volunteer in the nursery. At Master Gardeners we learned about native plants, among numerous other topics. Like so much in life, once my awareness is raised, I notice them in many places, and they capture my interest. At AGG I get to regularly plant seeds, up-pot seedlings, and I can browse the garden to see how these plants grow up in the real world.

In Master Gardener class we were given seeds back in February, and we were told one, hō’awa, in the pittosporum family, could take nine months to germinate. My interest was piqued. In the end, two of my 18 seeds germinated after only six months. Hubby’s germinated earlier, and he had more germinate. We want to outplant now that it’s almost a year later, but we need to know the plants’ full potential. As seedlings, it’s hard to imagine they can be big trees. Here are some images of hō’awa trees at AGG.

The other native we germinated in class that AGG has is the koai’a, related to koa, in the acacia family. Of four seeds, three of mine eventually germinated; none of Hubby’s did. Our experiment was to see if there was a difference in germination speed when scarifying the seed. The seeds I clipped with a nail clipper emerged in seven days, as opposed to 44 days for the ones I didn’t clip. I think a month after our germination experiments, half our class only had one germinate, and one person had three.

I just up-potted my three to 1.5 gallon pots. The trunk is very thin, and the leaves are small and delicate. I learned something while walking in the garden with my colleagues, and I read up more in my Growing Hawai’i’s Native Plants book. “What look like gray-green sickle-shaped leaves are really modified leaf stalks or phyllodes. The seedlings and juvenile trees also can have finely divided darker green compound leaves, which change into phyllodes with maturity.” Phyllodes is the word new to me. A phyllode is a winged leaf stalk which functions as a leaf. Curious? Look at the difference in “leaves” in the potted plant and the photo with the orange moss on the trunk. It was really useful for me to see the potential size, both height and width, of the koai’a.

There is so much to experience at the garden. It’s becoming increasingly meaningful to me with time, repeated visits, and more plant knowledge. One day when I arrived at the nursery I saw the results of a group effort kalo (taro) harvest. The huli (1/2″ or so of the corm, plus the leaf-stem) were labeled with the type of kalo they were, and they were grouped for future planting. We already had some varieties of kalo in plastic “pots” for the quarterly plant sale and for planting out at AGG. The next group of kalo is in one of two kalo fields. The fallowed field these were harvested from is getting a rest from kalo and has had nanea planted in it to rejuvenate the soil.

The last three photos are a not-so-common variegated banana. Both the leaves and the fruit are variegated. The name is manini banana, and it’s a cooking banana. They’re good, but we think the cooking banana (unknown variety) we used to have on our farm was better. I still think it’d be cool to have a variegated banana plant …

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