Friday, June 27, 2008

A bogland fence at Kanaele, Kaua'i

A fence more than a mile long encloses a botanical wonderland of mid-elevation Kaua'i—the Kanaele Bog, on the slopes above Kalāheo, where rainfall averages 160 inches a year.

(Image: The carniverous sundew mikinalo, which captures insects with the sticky droplets that sit on the end of its leaf hairs. Credit: John De Mello.)

Perhaps the most impressive of the plants protected by the fence is the amazing Lobelia kauaensis, which sends up a dense stalk of blooms that are white with purple streaks.

The wet Kanaele flatland lies at 2,100 feet above sea level—just half the elevation of the great Alaka'i Swamp's boglands, but still in the misty lands high above most human habitation.

Like Alaka'i, the bog contains a unique assemblage of dwarfed trees, compact sedges, intriguing carniverous sundews and more. But the mix of plants is quite different from Alaka'i.

“Kanaele is a natural treasure. Nothing like it exists anywhere on the planet,” said Trae Menard, director of the Kaua'i program for The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i. He called the 6,552-foot fence, which protects 80 acres, a “major conservation milestone.”

The Nature Conservancy set up the fence to keep feral pigs from digging up the area. Conservancy crews will now work within the fence to remove alien plants as they appear, before moving to further conservation work.

“The fence is really just the first step to effective bog conservation. The next steps entail weed control. With the bog protected from pigs and weeds, rare plant reintroduction can then take place to build more robust populations,” Menard said.

The land belongs to Alexander & Baldwin, which issued the conservancy a management agreement in 2003. The fence itself, costing $149,000, was a project of the conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, A&B's McBryde Sugar Co. and other private donors. It was built by Remote Fencing Outfitters.

Says the Conservancy about bogs:

“A bog is a special class of wetland maintained by high rainfall or groundwater levels. The soil is shallow, poorly drained, acidic peat (partially decomposed vegetation). Plants found within bogs are severely stunted. The challenging water-saturated, acidic conditions result in special bog-adapted plants that can exist in no other habitat. These signature bog plants distinguish Hawaiian bogs from other wetlands.”

For more on The Nature Conservancy's projects, see

© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate