Alexis wrote today’s entry:
The series of plants endemic to the Hawaiian Islands concludes today with Erythrina sandwicensis. These photographs (photo 1 | photo 2) were taken by Forest and Kim Starr, and accessed through Wikimedia Commons.
This tree occurs on leeward slopes on all eight major Hawaiian Islands, as they prefer hot, dry, rocky environments. The species also grows on old lava fields, dry canyons and gorges. Wiliwili loses its leaves in late summer or autumn, and flowers bloom in early spring or summer, so leaves and flowers are rarely seen together. Though the flowers are commonly orange, colour polymorphism exists within the species and white, yellow, peach, red or light green flowers also occur. Additionally, the presence of lichens tends to give the wiliwili trunks an orange tinge (Pratt’s A Pocket Guide to Hawaii’s Trees and Shrubs (2006)).
Erythrina sandwicensis is known for possessing among the lightest wood of all Hawaiian trees. For this reason, native Hawaiians found it was a useful material for surfboards and outriggers for fishing canoes (Rock’s The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands (1974)). This species is the only member of Erythrina native to Hawaii. Its Hawaiian name wiliwili, meaning “repeatedly twisted”, refers to the seedpods that twist to reveal their red seeds. These are commonly strung together to make leis.