OHA Funds Mo`omomi Restoration Project

Community Contributed by Bill Garnett

The Kauhale program of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) has helped fund the continuation of the papa he`e nalu (surfboard) coastal forest restoration project at Mo`omomi. The roots of this project come from the vision of Wade Lee and Ed Misaki, to preserve the yellow seeded wiliwili  after the well-known tree at Mo`omomi died.

Wiliwili trees are known for their bright red or orange flowers that bloom on leafless trees in the late summer early fall. “When the wiliwili flowers the sharks bite” is an `olelo that refers to the sharks coming in close to shore to mate during that season. The name wiliwili refers to the twisting of the mature seedpods that reveal the red or rarely, in the case of Mo`omomi, yellow seeds.

The kahuna la`au lapa`au used the flowers of the wiliwili for medicine; the ash from the wood was a dye; and most famously the extra light wood was used for fishnet floats, the iama of small canoe and papa he`e nalu surfboards for the ali`i.

The best way to work on preserving this important heritage tree was to undertake a small-scale coastal dry forest restoration trial at the site, utilizing a mix of native Hawaiian grasses, vines, shrubs and the trees. Both `ohe makai and wiliwili woods are known to have been used by Hawaiians to make traditional papa he`e nalu. We have gotten off to a great start by working with local school and family groups.

To see more about the project and see and hear from Molokai High School students interviewed during a planting day at Mo`omomi, check out the new Outside Hawaii show on OC16 or check our website www.wiliwilihawaiianplants.org, where groups can sign up to help replant the wiliwili forest.

Ultimately, we hope to grow enough wiliwili and `ohe makai trees to be able to harvest small amount of wood. Then we will  be looking to one of the kumu revitalizing traditional surfboard construction around the state or one of their students, for guidance in  making the first Papahe`enalu made on this island in decades.

We are happy to have received funding to continue part of this project, and thank the OHA trustees for their support.

Contributed by Molokai Dispatch