Four sisters once lived in Ka'u on the Big Island.
The first, whose name was Moholani, was very
beautiful. Unfortunately, the second sister was bald,
the third was humpbacked, and the fourth had ragged,
Beautiful Moholani married and had a son who
was given to the gods to raise. One day Moholani's
husband was lured out to sea by some pretty sirens.
Frantically, Moholani asked her sisters to help find her
errant husband. But they refused, calling him
worthless. This aroused the wrath of Moholani's son
who sent lightning to transform the sisters into wiliwili
trees. The bald sister became a wiliwili with few
leaves, the humpbacked sister a gnarled wiliwili and
the wind-tossed sister a wiliwili with leaves that flutter
in the breeze. Thus chastened, Moholani's husband
returned, never to stray again. That, according to
Hawaiian legend, is how the wiliwili tree came to be.
The habitat of this native Hawaiian tree is the dry
leeward side of the islands from sea level to 2000 feet.
It has gnarled, wide-spreading branches, long-
stemmed leaves and spring flowers that range in color
from pale red to white.
In pre-European times the buoyant wood of the
wiliwili was used for surfboards, canoe outriggers and
fishnet floats. Its red, oblong seeds were used in leis.
The wiliwili trees shown here are remnants of an
ancient grove inside Koko Crater Botanic Garden on
leeward Oahu. |
Koko Crater Botanical Garden, East Oahu |
Honolulu County (O'ahu) |
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above to enlarge it and download a high-resolution JPEG file.