In honor of Native Hawaiian Plant Month, I interviewed my high school classmate, Phill Kapu, who dedicates much of his life and his work to helping restore native plants and eliminate the invasive species that are negatively impacting our environment and ecosystems. He has a huge wealth of knowledge and puts all his knowledge into practice, which we know is one of the best ways to continue to learn and to do good with that learning - ma ka hana ka 'ike. If you are interested in learning more about native plants and what we can do to help restore them to our ecosystems, this is a great read!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do?
2. What drew you to learn about and do restoration work for native plants?
3. What is the difference between native and canoe plants?
4. What are some things that people may not know about certain native plants? Or some common misconceptions?
5. What tips do you have for others on helping to restore native plants in Hawai’i? Maybe some things we should do and some things we shouldn’t do?
Do the work! Restoring native plants can be volunteering at a restoration project that you like or just planting native plants in your yard!. Also learn about where you live! If you live in a very wet and rainy place, plant a native that is from the wet forest. If you live near the beach plant a coastal native plant that grows in those more dry salt air climates. Remember these plants grew here for millions of years and are suited for these specific environments. You can purchase native plants from Hui Ku Maoli Ola who also sells their plants at all City Mills. Or some restoration projects do community giveaways of natives sometimes. Youʻre going to have to be makaʻala and find those through social media though. Things you shouldʻnt do is plant anything that isnʻt native haha just kidding. It's a lot but look at all the plants that are detrimental to our islands and how prolific they are at spreading and DONT PLANT THOSE. Clean your boots after hiking so you donʻt spread things from one area to another.
6. Where can people go to learn more about native Hawaiian plants? Books, podcasts, places to volunteer, anything!
There are many books to learn all the names and descriptions of natives like "Manual of the Flowering Plants Hawaiʻi", a google search will bring up a lot, but personally there is no better way to me to learn about a plant than to go and plant one. When you're walking out of or near a city mill one day grab a 5 to 10 dollar plant, take it home, read the name, look it up on the internet or a book you have. Look for it in moʻolelo or hawaiian mele and make pilina with it. In the process look at what moon to plant it on in the Hawaiian moon calendar. The plants will bring you closer to Hawaiian culture and in there you'll find the wealth of information from our ancestors. If you dont have a yard to plant a plant in, go on a hike into the mountains or spend a day volunteering doing outplanting. See what you can or CANʻT find in the mountains and it will give a more in depth perspective at how important and crucial our native plant species are. EVEN go and learn where the non native plants are from because we are all mixed plate and can relate to those too sometimes. Im not much of a podcast person, but a good place to start learning about non natives, hiking etiquette, and volunteer opportunities is www.oahuisc.org. There is a "Hike Pono" button in the "Learn More" tab and information about invasives on oahu. A great volunteer opportunity that teaches a lot about the plants they plant and involves hawaiian culture in their practice is @protectandpreserve on instagram. Also @808cleanups has projects all over and volunteer opportunities for folks to engage in with restoration, clearing of invasives, and even fishpond/limu stuff. You can even volunteer with Oahu invasive species Committee killing invasives! These are some good things to get started looking at.
7. Any other mana'o you'd like to share?
Knowledge is key. If you donʻt know there is a problem, then you canʻt help fix it. Non natives promote erosion and flooding, reduce biodiversity in our forests (kill the mosses,ferns,bugs, birds that live in those trees), and reduce the amount of water captured in the mountains. If our natives are out competed by invasive species, the plants that hold our water and make this place livable will all die. The dirt they hold will wash out into the ocean and kill the reefs of our beautiful ocean. Love and cherish our native plants because they do more for us than weʻll ever be able to know. Meet a native plant, learn the moʻolelo, mele, ʻoli, and ʻike it is going to introduce to you and cherish the pilina you make with all of those things. Thats all. Mahalo!