An Earth Day flower show in Hawaii highlights three unique things about these islands and the amazing plants and animals found here.
There are about 25,000 species of plants and animals in Hawaii. Hundreds are listed as “Endangered” or “Threatened.” According to the Bishop Museum, there are more endangered species per square mile on these islands than any other place on the planet. The museum conducts the Hawaii Biological Survey that compiles information on all these species.
While many native Hawaii plants are endangered, “alien” (nonnative) species of plants and animals often flourish, which can have a negative impact on local living things. Sometimes these plants and animals arrive in Hawaii accidentally, hitching a ride on shoes or clothing, or along with furnishings when people move. Other times, they were introduced on purpose. One example is a bird called the Japanese White-eyes. In the late 1920’s people brought the birds to live in gardens and agricultural areas to help control bugs. Now, there are so many of the birds in old-growth forests that they are leaving native bird species with too little to eat (from the USDA website).
So, the first unique thing about these islands is that almost anything will thrive here, but not everything should. If you are visiting, please clean the soles of hiking boots and minimize any exposure to the islands of non-native plants, animals or fish. We may not be able to remove all nonnative species but we can try not to make it worse.
The second interesting thing about the flower show is the way flowers are used to decorate everything in Hawaii. Groups of people were twisting blooms and leaves into lei to sell at the flower show. It was fun to watch their practiced fingers weave the carefully-harvested pieces into lei to fit a head, wrist, or the traditional neckwear. Enormous floral arrangements decorate every hotel lobby and most homes. And the parades! Floats are so wonderfully decked out in flowers that it puts the Rose Bowl Parade to shame — FAR more persity here!
The third item of interest is the relationship people have to plants in Hawaii. Native Hawaiians considered humans and plants to be related. Special gifts are still wrapped in ti leaves, which are also used in blessings. Even people who do not make a spiritual connection enjoy being surrounded by blooms. It really is common for women to wear flowers in their hair. Flowers drop to the ground from trees in with rain and winds scatter petals in the air. The beauty of Hawaii’s plants and flowers is as much a part of life in these islands as the beach and technicolor sunsets.