Tables at the outdoor food court at the University of Hawaii have umbrellas for protection from the sun, rain, birds… and flowers. Protection from flowers, you ask? Don’t laugh. Flowers drop from trees in Hawaii all the time and frequently land in food or coffee. Before I moved to Hawaii, I did not consider flowers to be a hazard, but now I do on at least three counts.

One tree that I pass by regularly has large yellow flowers. They are about the size of a fist. As I passed under it one rainy day, a rain-soaked bloom water-bombed me. I felt a damp “plop” on my head. My first fear was that it came from a relieved bird, but no, I was pe-bombed by a dropping blossom. It would never have occurred to me to avoid walking under trees due to the danger of dropping flowers, but now I do so or make sure my hood is up.

The second hazard is slipping on sidewalks covered in flowers. It took me a very long time to be able to walk on flowers. Even though they fall on the ground all over, it just seemed wrong to trod on such beautiful blooms. Once my aesthetic aversion passed, I realized that they are slippery when wet. The same yellow-flower tree that plopped on my head caused me to slide and gyrate wildly when walking on the wet sidewalk beneath. Flowers are way slipperier than wet leaves and I can’t really think of an adequate description — but I now avoid flower-covered concrete when it’s wet to minimize the risk of a slip and fall. Maybe insurance companies in Hawaii would be sympathetic to the claim, but I imagine snickering and wild hysteria in sterile cubicles when reviewing my paperwork.

The third reason to be wary of flowers in trees is that they take flight with the breeze and alight in my lunch, or my beverage. I swear that’s the primary reason for the umbrellas. The sun really isn’t overbearing most of the time and the rain most often takes the form of a gentle mist. But a recent attempt to read and sip coffee at an uncovered table resulted in me waving off dropping petals as though they were insects. Shoo!

The other possibility for umbrellas is protection from birds, but they usually just walk up and panhandle, rather than passing overhead. But that’s the subject for another post.

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  1. [...]  How many things can fall from a tree?  Leaves and bird "gifts" would be counted everywhere, but Hawaii finds interesting things to add to the list.   As I was walking along a sidewalk recently, I heard a "pop" as though something small and hard had bounced off the concrete.  It had.  I looked around and saw the ground covered with small round objects.  Another dropped from the tree and bounced on the sidewalk.  It sounded kind of like wood or maybe a marble — not lethal, but not soft, either.   Because there are so many trees on the University of Hawaii campus, I no longer notice when I am passing under one of them.  Also, their branches reach out so far that they form a sort of canopy.  Once I located a cluster of the round things that were ready to drop but still on the branch, I had to trace the limb back to see which tree it belonged to.     While I was paused for the investigation, I noticed several more wary (and observant) pedestrians were carrying umbrellas — not for the rain or the sun, but to ward off objects falling from the tree.  They also stepped gingerly.  Those little round things are tricky to walk on.  They will smash if you put some effort into it, but they roll around pretty well underfoot at a normal pace.  If you’re rushing to catch a bus, it’s almost dangerous.   Fortunately, many of the trees on campus wear name tags.  This tree is a Moreton Bay Fig, named for a place in Australia where the tree originated.  Wikipedia says the fruit is edible but is “unpalatable and dry.”  That fits with the hollow bouncing noise.  However, the article continues, birds love the tree droppings.  Apparently, the birds on campus are not NEARLY hungry enough, because the sidewalk, benches and tables are covered with fig-marbles.  I always felt guilty about walking on what I thought were nuts – it seems wrong to waste food even if no one wants it.  I feel a little better now that I know it’s up to the birds.    Posted by Cindy Scheopner  Follow me on Twitter @Scheopner   Related post:  Hawaii flower hazards [...]

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