Flora and Fauna
These Islands were formed 30 million years ago by volcanoes growing up from the floor of the Pacific. At first, no living thing grew on the bare lava. Every plant and animal that is now here came from somewhere else, and often developed into unique and surprising forms in this isolated island chain.
Uniquely, Hawaii has almost no animals in its forests to hurt you. There are no snakes, crocodiles or large cats.
About the only really dangerous animals are a few wild dogs and pigs, and only then by someone determined to find
We do have mongoose, a little mammal introduced from India to control the rat population. Since rats and mongoose keep different active schedules we now have both mongooses and rats, but neither is of much concern to the average citizen.
Surrounded by ocean as we are, Hawaii is not surprisingly also surrounded by fish. In island waters live an estimated 700 species, many of them unique to Hawaii.
There are a few critters to watch for, such as bees, wasps and hornets and mosquitoes. Two nastier types,
centipedes and scorpions; are fortunately rarer and are not considered deadly. A sting by either should be treated
by a doctor.
We also have some rare and beautiful insects, 98 percent of which are seen nowhere else on earth. Hawaii has 11 kinds of butterflies and some dragonflies with five inch wing spans. We also have flying termites, the homeowner’s nemesis and the exterminator’s friend.
There is also the cockroach, a hardy little insect who’s been around for about as long as rocks and will surely outlive mankind. In the tropics, it’s no disgrace to have a few cockroaches in one’s home.
While not an insect, but definitely on our side is the gecko, a little lizard much loved because it eats, flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. Your gecko may be anywhere from two to five inches long and in color, white gray, brown, green or black. If you hear a gentle clicking sound some evening, that’s your resident gecko saying hi. He lives usually outdoors, but often comes inside for dinner.
Hawaii has many birds you won’t see on the mainland. That’s the raucous mynah bird which walks like a human and
eats grass-killing army worms. The Brazilian cardinal and barred dove are urban and relatively tame.
With luck you may spot a dramatic soarer like the frigate bird, floating almost motionless, thousands of feet overhead.
Hawaii is home to many familiar tropical fruits and some not-so-familiar ones. Common are coconuts, bananas,
avocados and papayas and pineapple. Less well known are mangoes, guavas, passion fruit, mountain apple, poha,
lychee, breadfruit and kokee plums. This Island grows Kona coffee and is the only Native American coffee. Many
macadamias are grown and it has become a large island industry.
Taro has been called the Pacific staff of life. It is the staple starch that potatoes, rice, bread and pasta are to other cultures. It is made by pounding taro roots and adding water. Many dismiss poi’s taste, but some become addicts. It is nutritious and easily digested.
Many plants have medicinal value known to ancient Hawaiians. Others are known to be poisonous. You should never taste an unfamiliar fruit, leaf, flower or root.
Here in the tropics, flowers and flowering trees are everywhere, giving Hawaii color and sweet scents. Among the most dramatic and vivid are the plumeria, bougainvillea, anthurium, hibiscus, shower trees, pikake, jacaranda, poinciana, bird of paradise and the non-fragrant but lovely orchids of many shades and colors.