Monday, May 27, 2013

Bees and blooms: lots of buzz in iliau and `ohi`a right now

The honeybees of Koke`e are in the clover this month.

Well, not so much clover, but they're a satisfied bunch of bees.

There's an amazing bloom of both `ohi`a and Kaua`i's charismatic `iliau (flowering stalk at right, bee on a floret below) going on, and the flowers are abuzz with the honeybees and other pollinators.

If you're on Kaua`i or going to be, this would be a good time to drive up the Koke`e Road and visit the Iliau Nature Loop, where hundreds of stalks, each with dozens of flowers, are glistening creamy in the sunshine.

Iliau, Wilkeskia gymnoiphium, spends most of its life as a little starburst of pale green leaves on a stalk no thicker than a ti leaf stem, and then from May to July it blooms into this amazing column of blossoms. And then it dies.

This Kaua`i relative of the silversword and greensword is covered with sticky sap--to deter crawling insects and give airborne pollinators an edge?

The `ohi`a are blooming as well, and you can walk up and watch the bees dive into the flowers to get at the rich source of sap, which flows deep beneath crimson columns topped with pollen.

Native Hawaiian solitary bees were once described as among the most common Hawaiian insects. They are rare today, and the honeybee appears to have stepped up to fill some of their role in pollinating native Hawaiian plants--along with all of the fruit pollination duties they perform.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2013

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