Palms of Spring

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Just a couple weeks ago on March 11, Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota held a celebration in honor of three separate religious holidays falling on the same day. The three holidays were Jewish Purim (celebrating the story of Queen Esther), Hindu Holi (celebrating several Hindu myths and springtime), and Muslim Mawlid al-Nabi (celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad).

Now we have moved into April and there are other religious festivals to celebrate. In the Jewish tradition, this is near the time of Pesach, or what we commonly call Passover. This year, it begins at sundown on Wednesday, April 8 and commemorates their Exodus from Egypt out of slavery.

In the Christian tradition, today is Palm Sunday in remembrance of Jesus’ triumphant ride into the city of Jerusalem. The people expected him to liberate them from the oppressive government, so they were excited to see him and spread palm branches on the road before him. It is in honor of that day that this post focuses on palms.

The opening photo is looking up into a tall coconut palm in a friend’s yard over in Na`alehu, loaded with coconuts. I just hoped none would fall on me as I was taking the picture.

The tall palms all over Hawai`i are beautiful, although not native. Here is one in the middle of the Ala Moana Shopping Center on Oahu.

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When I visited some of the Hawai`ian sacred sites in Hilo with a group of students last month, I took these pictures of the tall palms scattered around the area.

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Then we have the banana palm trees. Here is a small one in a friend’s yard. I have a few but they are still way too small to even think about bearing.

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This little coconut palm in my yard has a long way to go to match the one on top of this post! It has been badly damaged by the wind and sulfur dioxide.

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I was given this saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) in a large pot by another friend.

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Since then I have taken it out of the pot and planted it in the ground.

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve been putting in triangle palms (Neodypsis decaryi) to line my driveway. Here are a couple of photos to show you. Maybe in about five years or so, they’ll be closer to the size I want. This shot was taken before my driveway was put in.

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This shows the cinder dumped onto the driveway, with a friend and his son on the bobcat, ready to grade it down for me.

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This gift triangle was already about three times as big when I got it as the others I have. Such a prize!

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Then I was given four small triangles to put into the ground. One has made it, but the other three are still waiting to be planted. Someday I’ll get around to it – along with all my other projects!

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Perhaps someday, mine will be as big as the one a friend has on Maui. He planted these in 2003.

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A post on palms wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the “Sago Palm,” which isn’t even a palm at all! I think people call it a “palm” because of the way the branches look, but it is really a cycad. Perhaps I’ll do a post on that another day. Here is one that belongs to my friend on Maui.



If you are interested in knowing more about the various religious holidays I’ve mentioned, check out one of the following websites. I highly recommend this Interfaith calendar that lists all the religious festivals. The Religious Tolerance site is also very informative.

Time to go water my palms!

New Life!

As I came out of the house this morning, my eye caught this growth. A branch of ohia that touches the ground, and looks totally dead, is shooting up a lehua blossom. Even if our temperature doesn’t vary more than a few degrees year round, there still is a definite feel of spring this time of year.

Perhaps the struggle for growth in a field of lava creates a shift in perspective. The tiniest bit of green that pokes its head through the black stone is cause for praise and excitement.

While I watered my plants this morning, I took pictures of a few precious keiki (Hawai`ian for babies – and a term we use for new and/or young plants).

One that I am especially excited about is the beautiful Barbados lily I was given by my daughters. I’m still trying to find out more about this beautiful plant. What I’ve read so far indicates that it is actually a Hippeastrum Striatum, a variation of the amaryllis. The nurseryman told us that when it dies, a new plant will pop up wherever the flower falls. This seems to be coming true. If you look closely, you’ll see it sprouting up new growth. How many can you count?

In one of my small raised beds mentioned last week, I have a kabocha vine starting to grow and bloom. I really love the flavor of this vegetable. If you check out this website, you’ll see the many ways it can be prepared. I haven’t tried them all yet, but intend to. It’s called “Japanese pumpkin” here by my local friends.

My pink plumeria is starting to bloom. The yellow ones started about a month earlier.

This gardenia is in a container in my patio area, rather than in the ground. But it’s still exciting to see it start to do something. If you look closely (maybe with a magnifying glass?) you can see a tiny bud starting to develop.

The same thing is true of this pepper plant. Somehow the label got lost on this plant after I bought it, but I think I remember that it’s supposed to be hot. I guess the only way I’ll find out is to taste it! (laughing)

I planted peanuts in a little pocket of soil my daughters created for me. They used ohia leaf litter, mixed with compost and some of my “pig dirt” (see last week’s post). You can see the ohia leaves still dropping off. But the peanuts are looking healthy. I remember eating fresh raw peanuts out of my Grandpa Jones’ front yard in Mississippi. Yummy!

There is new growth on my coconut palm. Some of the older leaves have burned edges from the sulfur dioxide in the air (from our volcano), and you can see some spots from the acid rain.

My red banana had a few burned leaves, but it looks like it just might make it.

New growth is very rewarding! Watching my plants sprout and grow is like giving birth to my children again!


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