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.


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