Much like a psychic can read minds (if you believe in that stuff, anyway), the state’s top botanists can read clues to identifying mystery plants. They look at all the characteristics – colors, scents, size – before determining the unidentified stranger in their backyards. Plant enthusiasts love this stuff, but at the annual Grow Hawaiian Fest on the Big Island, everyone gathers around to witness these botanist whizzes.

Clyde Imada and Marie Bruegmann use their knowledge to identify plants through hands-on techniques. Along side the pair, Bishop Museum entomologist David Preston identifies mystery bugs. And along side him, taro expert Jerry Konanui helps determine different variations of the kalo plant, the staple of ancient Hawaiians.

They’re all among an impressive lineup of experts with knowledge ranging from seashells to kapa to lauhala. In fact, Bishop Museum has a huge lauhala hat project in the works. Some of the hats will be on display at the festival by local weavers.

Like many cultures, Hawaiians learned by observation. And how rare it is to be able to see these ancient practices brought to modern day in one place, such as the festival. Visitors will be able to experience these practices themselves through hands-on activities, like printing traditional bamboo stamps or stringing plumeria lei. They’ll also be able to craft bamboo nose flutes, which one will find is not as easy to play as it looks!

This event is in tandem with a Grow Hawaiian festival at Oahu’s Bishop Museum, which happens around April every year. It, too, is a blend of modern sustainability and traditional Hawaiian culture. Visitors at this Oahu festival may also explore the exhibits at the museum. And whether if just for the day or a few days both festivals take place, visitors will be able to see firsthand the ways of ancient Hawaii.

BIG ISLAND GROW HAWAIIAN FEST • Feb. 22-24, 2013 (Free) • Event will be at various locations, visit www.bishopmuseum.org/greenwell

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