A Typical Hawai`ian Winter

I first wrote about this in 2009 soon after I started writing my blog. It’s one of my favorite times of year here in Hawai`i, in what we call “winter.” The roads are lined with dazzling displays of poinsettias .

The highway I drive regularly is narrow and curving with almost no place to pull over, but I managed to get a few pictures. Some of the photos are a bit hazy, so there must have been some vog the day I took these (look up “vog”). Please enjoy these pictures that show a few of our winter scenes.

Yes, there is a difference between summer and winter here. Even in Florida, Southern California, and Arizona (all states where I have lived in the past), there is a distinct change between the temperatures in July and those in January.

Here, there is no noticeable change in temperature from month to month all year. From late November until mid-March, however, there is a change in what blooms along the roadsides and in our gardens.

Some places have huge embankments of poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). “Pulcherrima” means “very beautiful,” and it is. There is no way to compare these with the little pots of poinsettias you might purchase in a local store.

Against our rich green forests, the brilliant reds are almost florescent. Then throughout March, I look for those little drops of red in the midst of jungle growth that keep hanging on. When they are all gone, I know that winter is over!

Poinsettias flow over onto the ground and almost seem to take over everything else. My first experience with poinsettias took place back in the early 70s when I decided to take some courses in the ornamental horticulture department of California Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo.

We made a field trip to visit the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, CA where over 70% of the poinsettias in the United States and over 50% worldwide actually begin their life. There were acres of greenhouses filled with poinsettia cuttings in all varieties and stages of growth. Please follow the link above to view the history of that ranch as well as the history of poinsettias in general.

I love the way they intermingle with the yellow hibiscus. Such a dazzling display of color!

This is a sight few of you will see at Christmas.

Many of the poinsettias have found their way into the wild tangles of growth alongside our roads.

Others are a featured part of a home’s entryway.

You can see why I’m obsessed with taking just the right pictures to illustrate this stunning plant.

Poinsettias are originally from Mexico and named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico in the 1920s.  During his stay in Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species.

In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. The rest, as they say, “is history.”

When I lived in Southern California, I remember how people would plant the small potted plants they bought at Christmas time. Many of their homes had nice stands of poinsettias, but they rarely reached the size of the ones here.

If you are interested in what to do with your Christmas poinsettia plant, look online to read about it. You will find good sites on how to choose and care for your poinsettia, and what to do with it at the end

I really do empathize with those of you who are suffering under ice storms and record-breaking snowstorms. I have lived in Alaska, Illinois, and Rhode Island, so I know what you are experiencing. But I could never go back to it, now that I’ve lived in Paradise for close to 30 years!

Whether you are celebrating Hanukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, or any other festival at this time of year, poinsettias are a celebration in themselves!

Mele Kalikimaka
[Merry Christmas in Hawaiian]

2 thoughts on “A Typical Hawai`ian Winter”

  1. A very informative and fun to read article. Quite a contrast to Indiana, where I woke up this Sunday morning and looked out my window to see the gloom of an overcast winter day and was easily able to predict two topics of today’s Sunday prayers. The kids will be praying we have snow and the adults will be praying we don’t! 🙂

    1. I grew up in Illinois, so like Indiana, we had more gray days in the winter than sunny days. I’ll take sun and poinsettias over those cold gay days anytime!!

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