Maui Attractions Newsletter
August 2012
[Events] [Natural History] [Arts & Culture]
[Braddah-Nics] [Local Grinds]

Natural History

Cockspur Or Common Coral Tree
(Erythrinia crista-galli)

The distinctive cockspur or common coral tree belongs to a family of over 100 tree species found throughout the tropics and subtropics in South America and Asia. The family name, Erythrina is from a Greek word for "red," and these trees are cultivated for their often bright red flowers. Hawaiians call it wiliwili haole in reference to the endemic Hawaiian erythrina.

This low-growing, spreading, shrubby small tree is native to Argentina, Uraguay, Brazil and Paraguay and is often planted as a street or garden tree in those countries. It normally grows up to about 30 feet tall. In Argentina the tree is called ceibo and is the national tree.
In Hawaii, the tree has been planted in the lowlands. It apparently prefers moist soil.

The tree is related to legumes (like the common bean) and has a taproot with nodules produced by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria live in symbiosis with the tree, facilitating the trees absorption of nitrogen in return for the organic materials which the bacterial needs.

The tree trunk is woody, with furrowed bark. Its often thorny-stemmed leaves are shiny dark green with three smooth oval or elliptic leaflets.

The handsome, broad, rich dark red butterfly-like flowers are usually borne in clusters along several feet of a branch-end for several months of the year in Hawaii. Each 1-3/8 to 2-1/2 inch beak-shaped flower eventually opens to an ovoid or heart-shaped cape-like carpal with a tubular projection from the non-pointed end. These flowers are rich in nectar that has high sugar and amino acid (protein) content. They attract nectar-feeding birds like Japanese white-eyes and mynahs and are visited by insects which pollinate the flowers.

The tree's fruit is a legume which can grow up to six inches long, and dries to swollen, curved bean-like pod that contains 8 to 10 chestnut-brown bean-shaped seeds have light markings. The seeds are especially abundant from March through September and are used to make Hawaiian seed lei. They are very easy to germinate.

As are most coral trees, this species is drought resistant. They grow fast and have sometimes been used to shade crops, especially coffee, for ornament and for hedges. Medicinally, the leaves, bark and flowers of the common coral tree were used in Argentina as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, for healing wounds, antimicrobial, astringent, anticoagulant, narcotic and sedative. However, there are very strong alkaloids present in all parts of the plant. These alkaloids are dangerous poisons.

For about three years, between 2005 and 2008, all of the coral trees in Hawaii (both introduced and native) were under attack by a new species of erythrina gall wasp that apparently came from Southeast Asia. These wasps laid their eggs in the young terminal leaves and stems of the various erythrina trees (which included the native wiliwili). The wasp larvae developed in the plant tissue, inducing the formation of galls in the leaflets and petioles. The leaves of the affected plants curled and appeared deformed and the petioles and shoots became swollen. When the larvae grew to adulthood, they cut their way out of their leaf-wombs. Severe infestation caused the defoliation and death of many beautiful erythrina trees throughout the state.

The spread of the new gall wasp was frighteningly swift. The first wasp-damaged leaves were found on Oahu in April, 2005. Within six months, the wasps had spread throughout the state and the trees started dying. Studies indicated that the wasp had a life cycle (from egg to adult) of about 20 days. One day-old female wasp, they said, carried sixty mature eggs in its ovaries. Assorted chemical solutions were tried with limited effectiveness. Resistant varieties of the plants were recommended to replace the varieties that seemed more susceptible to the wasp attack. However, this did not help the native erythrinas which seemed to be endangered by the new threat.

Scientists working for the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture went looking for the gall wasps' natural enemies. One, a parasitic wasp, from Africa was introduced in 2008 after much research and testing. It seems to have proven effective at controlling the pest.


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Arts & Culture

The Old Paia Lime Kiln

In ancient times, Kapuka'ulua ("the 'ulua fishing hole"), was a famous fishing spot. A large heiau (Hawaiian temple) overlooked the ocean at Kapuka'ulua Point (near where entry road into Baldwin Beach Park meets the current shoreline.) Due to shoreline erosion, and past tsunami conditions, the heiau's remains are now submerged offshore.

Another heiau watched over the shoreline from the nearby rise of Pu'u Nene. (That hill no longer exists. The cinders that made up the hill were used for road construction and other building needs.) The HC&S mill later appropriated the name of this hill as the name for its mill several miles away.

Still another heiau rose on the banks of Kailua Gulch which borders the Spreckelsville area.

It's believed that Kapuka'ulua supported several fishing villages along the shore and nearby mauka lands. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of ancient human burials in the sand dunes between "Baby Beach" and Baldwin Beach. Life-long residents referred to it as "Bones Beach" when they were young. A newspaper article of 1973 featured a front page photo of a full skeleton unearthed by tourists.

Maui Agriculture Co., run by Alexander and Baldwin, constructed the Paia Lime Kiln in 1907. For decades afterwards, sand and coral were excavated from the beach to manufacture hydrated lime for plantation uses, to build roads and airstrips. Railroad tracks and a roadway ran through the area. Portions of the old asphalt roadbed are sometimes visible on the beach today.

Until the mid-1980's, the kiln manufactured and supplied dry hydrated lime to sugar factories and others on Maui. During World War I, the plantation converted the lime kiln to cement production which continued until the war-time shortage eased. The Portland-type cement manufactured at Paia during World War I was of high quality. An article in the July 27, 1951 Honolulu Advertiser reported, "Paia cement, after thirty years in the Haiku Ditch, is still in excellent condition."

During World War II, the military need for more cement induced Hawaiian Gas Products (the forerunner of Gaspro) to buy and assemble the Paia concrete-making equipment at the site of the Waianae Lime and Cement Company on Oahu. The production of hydrated lime continued at the Paia site.

The lime kiln withstood the infamous April Fool's Day tsunami of 1946 that badly damaged dozens of structures in the Spreckelsville and Paia beach areas. The same tsunami also destroyed a USO recreation hall built on the dunes during World War II.

Erosion was a concern even back then. In 1954, geologist Doak Cox, contracted by the Hawai`i Sugar Planters Association, issued a report titled, "The Spreckelsville Beach Problem." HC&S commissioned the study in hopes of increasing the output of the Lime Kiln. The company wondered how much sand they could remove from the beaches without adversely affecting them.

Cox quantified historic amounts of sand removed and noted beach rock marking former shorelines (such as at "Baby Beach"). His report recommended an end to the sand removal from "industrial supply beach" at Spreckelsville and "lime kiln supply beach" at Kapuka`ulua-the rarely spoken proper place name. HC&S ignored Cox's recommendations. In fact, they continued to operate the lime kiln for the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, shoreline erosion to the nearby Baldwin Beach continued. Concerned environmentalists pointed out that one major cause is the boulder revetment , the sea wall that once protected the lime kiln and which was left in place when it shut down. Seawalls and revetments may "fix" the shoreline, they tell us, but only at the expense of adjacent beach systems.

The abandoned Paia lime kiln site was sold in 1992 by the company to a private land-owner whose attempts to develop the property led to years of public outcry and resentment as well as litigation and legal actions by and against the County of Maui.

Through it all, the County government wrestled with long-term community planning needs, trying to balance individual property rights with the various concerns about environmental issues and the impact any development has on the surrounding community. The old Paia Lime Kiln property (renamed Montana Beach by its new owners) got caught up in the zoning changes mandated by the revision of the Wailuku-Kahului plans. One of the three sets of owners in the Montana Beach Condominium limited liability corporation built a 2,500 square-foot, custom-designed house on their share of the property using fine-quality materials. They were not allowed to live in the house they had made and finally gave it up.

By the time the dust settled in 2008, the County of Maui had purchased the three lots that made up the five-and- a-half acre property for a total of $10.5 million. Many hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars had been spent on the various court cases, public meetings, and all the attendant hoo-hah.

There had been hope in the community that the existing building would be used as a Maui Environmental Resource Center. The area is a treasure trove of historical and natural resources. That hope died as the lawsuits dragged on and the owners and bureaucrats and all their lawyers argued.

The building, built in 2001, was boarded up and sat empty for 11 years. It was recently announced in the June 27, 2012 Maui News that the Council had approved the sale of the now-derelict Montana Beach house at auction. The aim of this move, according to the report, is to sell the materials of the building to recoup some of the cost of acquiring the property and to have the structure, which has become an attractive nuisance, removed from the beach at little or no additional cost.

The boulder revetment that shields the site from wave action and is one of the factors causing the erosion of the sand at one of the most popular family beaches on the island is still there.

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Braddah-Nics Lexicon



STANDARD: Sometimes there is no way we can get the product you want.
BRADDAH-NICS: When no more, no can do not'in'.


* * * * * * * *

STANDARD: I suppose we just have to accept that.
BRADDAH-NICS: 'Kay, fine den.

* * * * * * * *

STANDARD: Is there some other alternative that will work as well?
BRADDAH-NICS: So what? Get one uddah da-kine for make li' dat?




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Local Grinds


Slow Cooker Curry Stew


  • 3 lbs. beef stew meat
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 ginger
  • 3 tsp Hawaiian salt
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp curry powder


  • Brown meat in frying pan with 1 tbsp oil, 2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp of curry powder, then add to slow cooker on medium to high heat.
  • Rinse ginger well, and then crush it as a whole piece. Add ginger piece and all veggies to a large mixing bowl and combine with oil.
  • Toss to distribute oil, and then add 2tbsp curry powder and salt. Place veggies on meat in slow cooker.
  • Heat up beef broth in a sauce pan on medium heat and mix in remaining curry powder and flour. When all of the flour is dissolved, and broth to the slow cooker.
  • Allow slow cooker to cook covered for about 2-3 hours, or until beef is cooked thoroughly


Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms


  • 3 large Moloka’i Sweet Potatoes, cubed
  • 1 tray white mushrooms, halved
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp parsley flakes
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp Hawaiian salt


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix vinegar, garlic, parsley, thyme and salt well.
  • Toss potatoes in mixture and add coated potatoes to a greased cookie sheet. Separate them evenly on sheet to allow heat to cook through at the same rate.
  • Toss mushrooms to the remaining mixture and let soak while potatoes cook for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • When potatoes are golden brown, flip them over and add mushrooms. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Serve hot.

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TJ Cia, R(S)
Gary Cia Maui Realtors,  LLC
205-3 Front Street
Lahaina, HI 96761

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