Maui Attractions Newsletter

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Maui Attractions Newsletter
July 2013
[Events] [Natural History] [Arts & Culture]
[Braddah-Nics] [Local Grinds]

Natural History

(Sophora chrysophylla)

The twisted, graceful mamane trees, with their gray-green, lacy foliage and golden, sweet-pea-like flowers, are an integral part of the native Hawaiian upland forests. A large shrub or bush, they can grow up to 50 feet in height. It develops in different forms, either as erect trees from 20 to 40 feet high, as sprawling trees near the ground or as erect shrubs. The branches are golden brown with ridges running along them. The bark is smooth and golden brown on the branches and younger trees and is rough and gray on older trees.

Each leaf consists of 6 to 10 pairs of oval leaflets. The light green leaflets range in size from 3/8 to 2 inches long and 1/4 to 1 inch wide. They may be smooth or have gray or yellowish down underneath. The young growth is also downy.

Pea-like yellow flowers form loose bunches at the bases of leaves or the ends of branches. Flowering occurs in winter and spring. The seeds of Sophora chrysophylla are contained in winged, woody, quadrangular, four-winged pods shaped like strings of beads - the pods narrow between each seed. The pods stay attached to the tree for most of the year. These brown or brownish gray pods can be up to 6 inches long and are generally 1/2 inch wide. The four to eight seeds may be yellow or reddish-orange in color. Each flattened oval seed is about 1/4 inch long. They are apparently bitter and contain high amounts of potentially toxic alkaloids in their seed coats.

These endemic plants are survivors, living on the windswept, dry upland slopes of the mountains and hills. They grow at elevations ranging from 1,400 to over 9,000 feet (to the tree line on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island) and are found on all the main Hawaiian islands except Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe. Their continued survival for the past century and more has meant contending with marauding cattle, sheep and goats, all of whom love the mamane's sweet tender spring growth. It has meant a continual struggle against the depredations of invasive introduced pasture grasses.

In 1927, according to Otto Degener, the few plants within the Haleakala Crater, near the northern wall and on the grassy plains near Kaupo Gap were under heavy attack by a native beetle that apparently riddled their branches with "galleries for their young." The plants were also being attacked by native caterpillars and goats. The injury to the plants by the native beetle and the caterpillar Degener mentioned did "not endanger the existence of the plant," he said. Otherwise, as he pointed out, the plant "would have been exterminated ages ago." However, the depredations of introduced enemies such as horses, cattle, and feral goats and pigs that ate all the young seedlings except the roots which died once the upper growth was gone did far more damage to the mamane groves on the mountains. The introduced animals also stripped the green growth as well as the bark from the established trees as high up as they could reach. The plants endured.

In the 1980s, when feral sheep and cattle ravaged large areas of the mamane forest on Mauna Kea on the Big Island, a lawsuit was brought against the state and the Federal governments in which the mamane and its resident native parrot-billed Hawaiian finch, the palila, were named as the plaintiffs. The endangered honeycreeper feeds on the immature seeds in the green seedpods as well as on the larvae of the Cydia moths. (A study in 2002 found that because both the palila and the moth caterpillars avoided eating the mature mamane seed coats and had apparently developed a high tolerance for the alkaloids in the seeds, they were able to thrive on this highly specialized diet.)

The continued existence of the bird and the plant was at stake. The mamane forest been so badly depleted that the once wide-spread birds were disappearing.

Less than a year after the palila and the mamane won their heated Honolulu court case, concerted efforts were made to eliminate feral sheep from the mountainside. The upper-elevation forests began to revive as the mamane burst forth with renewed vigor and the seedlings sprouted everywhere, undisturbed by browsing herbivores.

On Molokai and on Maui, dedicated efforts by the state and by the Nature Conservancy in controlling the feral goat population have helped the mamane trees regain some of their lost vigor as well. Native honeycreepers on those islands were once again able to sip the nectar from the yellow flowers. On those islands, however, there were no more palila. The last of the palila population in the world now exist only on the Big Island.

To the ancient Hawaiians, the hard, heavy yellow mamane wood with its straight grain and durability was a treasure. They used it as an alternative for the more valuable (and rarer) kauila wood. Mamane was sometimes used for the posts and beams for houses. Often the sapwood, which is not as strong and durable as the older heart wood, was carefully cut away. Mamane was also the wood of choice for 'o'o, digging sticks, that were their primary agricultural tool and for adze handles. Later, the cattle ranchers cut the trunks of the mamane trees into fence posts because of their great durability in the soil.

Holua sleds for sliding down steep rocky mountainsides had runners made from mamane wood. Sledding was an exciting, dangerous sport in which the royalty indulged. (The sleds were long and narrow; the chiefs, often large and wide.) Scrapes, abrasions and broken bones were not unusual injuries.

The holua sleds were often twelve feet long with runners spaced as little as two and a half inches apart at the base and about six inches apart at the top where the body of the rider was to lie. Before using the sleds, the runners were lubricated with oil expressed from the kukui nut.

These sleds sped down courses that were about 18 feet wide and extended from a steep hill onto the plain below, over rocky, steep terrain. They were first paved with flat rocks and then covered with earth which was beaten hard. A layer of dry grass, because of its slipperiness was then laid on top. The sled runners had to be very dense and solid to withstand the pounding the sleds took as the athletes coursed down the mountain.

Mamane flowers and seeds were used once in lei-making. The flowers were strung one by one or attached in clusters to a central cord by winding or plaiting for the lei mamane. The yellow color of the flower lei were favored by the ali'i.

Medicinally, the flowers of the mamane were used as an astringent. During certain religious ceremonies to ward off evil, the Hawaiian high priest would hold a piece of mamane wood, wrapped in dark kapa, in his hands a symbol of authority.

The beautiful plants are said to be a botanical enigma. Nobody's quite sure how the trees got to Hawaii. Its closest relative is probably the beautiful kowhai (Sophora teptraptera), New Zealand's national flower, which is also found in Chile and Rapa Island in French Polynesia. One theory is that the mamane evolved from kowhai seeds that were distributed around the Pacific by birds blown off-course. The seeds of the mamane are too heavy to float.

An alternative theory points to the silver bush (Sophora tomentosa) a mamane-like seashore plant that is widespread in Polynesia. Unknown in Hawaii today, it could have been the ancestor of the mamane. Perhaps it grew along the Hawaiian seashores at one time and evolved into a high mountain shrub. No one knows for sure.

In Malaysia, the seeds and roots of the silverbush are valued medicinally. It is used as an astringent and to counteract the effects of eating poisonous sea food. The pounded leaves were placed on wounds caused by some poisonous fish.



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Arts & Culture


Kaunoa Senior Center, at 401 Alapaka Place, Paia, is an activity and resource center for seniors ages 55 and better which is run by the County of Maui. The center has a wide array of workshops and classes and social opportunities. They also operate Meals on Wheels, transportation services , senior volunteer opportunities and a dining program.

In a former incarnation, the 4.54 acre facility was the Kaunoa Elementary School. Kaunoa was the only English-standard school in Maui County. Its original name was the "Maui Standard School. " "English-standard schools" were created in the 1920s after parents who were not able to afford private schools like Punahou petitioned the Territory of Hawaii to create schools that taught "proper English." These parents did not want their children to be handicapped by not being able to speak the language of business and mainstream America.

In order to attend these schools the children were given an oral examination to test their English language usage and comprehension. Because many of the island children grew up in homes where English was not the primary language, most of the children of the immigrants who were workers in the plantation system experienced difficulties in getting into these schools.

The rest of the youngsters who attended school in the area went to the Spreckelsville Grammar School, which had been established in 1920. It was located in the old camps between Paia and Kahului that were formerly part of Claus Spreckels' sugar plantation which had become a part of the A&B land holdings.

The classes at Kaunoa Elementary School were held from 1926 to 1957 for students in the first through eighth grades. By then there was a lot of controversy surrounding the premises governing these English-standard schools. Some educators felt that the English-standard schools discriminated against the children who were not fluent in English. The class of 1957 was the last group of Kaunoa students who were admittance into the school based on the verbal test and to complete all eight grades.

The community called the Kaunoa School the "haole" school even though many of the students were not Caucasians. (The most notable person who attended Kaunoa School was Patsy Mink who served in the U.S. House of Representatives until her death in 2002. Former Maui County mayor Charmaine Tavares was a member of that last class of 1957.)

After that year, the school became a regular public school under the Department of Education. In the fall of 1957, the Spreckelsville Grammar School was closed and the student body merged with the one at Kaunoa. Kaunoa Elementary School closed in 1964 as newer schools were built.

In 1965, the US government passed the Older Americans Act, which focused on addressing the needs of senior citizens. The Maui County Council put together a Committee on Aging made up of 20 citizens who began planning an "Opportunity Center for Senior Citizens." A number of programs were also developed to help meet the needs of citizens, ages 55 or better, including "Meals on Wheels," group dining programs, transportation services, and elderly housing.

In 1974, the State of Hawaii set aside the old school property for the County of Maui to use for the Kaunoa Senior Center. The school cafeteria was remodeled, but the old classrooms were demolished and new buildings built for the facility.

The state executive order said the purpose of the program at Kaunoa was "to serve as a catalyst for bringing senior citizens together in an environment where they can pursue meaningful and interesting activities and remain healthy, active and contributing members of the community."

Kaunoa Senior Center is one of the most active of the senior activity and resource centers, which are all part of a division in the County's Dept. of Housing and Human Concerns. When its rooms and meeting places are not being used for workshops, classes, and cultural, art, and informational programs, then community groups like the Sierra Club, Life of the Land or others may use them for meetings.


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Braddah-Nics Lexicon


STANDARD: Oh, my God!
BRADDAH-NICS: Ai, zuzoosh!

* * * * * * * *

STANDARD: You've done it!
BRADDAH-NICS: You get 'em!

* * * * * * * *

STANDARD: There's no need to get so frustrated.
BRADDAH-NICS: Eh! No need get all futless!



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Local Grinds

Crock-Pot Chicken Adobo


  • 4 lbs. Chicken Wingettes/Drummettes
  • 3 Large Potatoes, Skinned and Cubed
  • 2 Bottles Mid Pac Foods Adobo Sauce
  • Aloha Shoyu Brand Soy Sauce (To Preference)
  • 1 Garlic, Chopped


  1. Rinse and dry chicken pieces well.
  2. In a large pot, cook chicken for about 15 - 20 minutes to remove excess chicken liquid and sear the chicken skin.
  3. Turn on slow cooker and set on high for 4 hours.
  4. Transfer chicken to a slow cooker. Pour 1 1/2 bottles of sauce over chicken. Add in garlic.
  5. Place layer of potatoes on chicken. If you don't want the vinegar taste to be too intense, add in shoyu to the remaining sauce in bottle. Cover and shake, pour in remaining mix to cover potatoes.
  6. Check after 2 1/2 hours. Turn off after potatoes are cooked thoroughly.
  7. Stir a few times to blend potatoes and chicken well prior to serving.


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