With the same concern, she examines the bright orange seeds from a gnarled wiliwili tree. The gall wasp has decimated the valley’s wiliwili, from whose lightweight wood ancient Hawaiians made canoes, surfboards and fishnet floats. Now the leaves are curled and lumpy with disease, and many of the taller trees have died.
Volunteers are battling the invaders by hand, chainsaw and herbicide—whatever it takes to keep intruders at bay. Once the ecosystem is stabilized, native Hawaiian plants have a fighting chance to reclaim their soil.
Revered native-plant expert Rene Sylva got the work started in 2000 by planting and cultivating dozens of endemic and endangered species on the slopes of Honokowai Valley. Today, plant lovers continue Sylva’s efforts, nourishing the plants with water siphoned (with permission) from KDC’s irrigation system.
Even with the clearing and replanting already accomplished, future generations will have their hands full. Honokowai Valley extends for three miles up the mountain and two miles down to the sea—“giving one person enough work for five lifetimes,” Lindsey says.
Fortunately, the project is more about the journey than the destination. There is no plan to create a Maui version of O‘ahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center, Lindsey says. Instead, he hopes the valley will simply serve as inspiration for people to look at what’s in their own backyard and their own heart.
“Use this as a resource,” he says. “This is an outdoor classroom. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with the spiritual part in everyone. The future of this place will depend on the people who come in here.”
Here, within the weighty peace of the valley, an ancient way of life is being uncovered. Layer by layer, lifetime by lifetime, the treasure is coming to light.