November 20, 2005
My grandfather, D.T.Fleming loved to go hiking in the mountains during his spare time. A favorite was the Auwahi Forest just beyond Ulupalakua, botanically one of the richest areas in Hawaii, even today despite its degradation. He witnessed the decline of native species due to cattle, goats and the aggressive Kikuyu grass, not allowing new seedlings to survive. His dream for retirement was planting an Arboretum for their protection.
He planted the D.T.Fleming Arboretum within the protected slopes of the cinder cone Pu’u Mahoe once a part of the rich dryland forest. The land was a gift from Ed Baldwin of Ulupalakua Ranch in appreciation for introducing a parasite to control Pamakani, a noxtious weed that was taking over the pastures. Similar to the fire-weed, it is toxic for livestock. It causes them to loose their hair and get sunburn.
My grandfather was able watch the Arboretum trees thrive for three years before he passed away. My parents took care of the Arboretum for the next 45 years. Puu Mahoe was a significant part of our family life, spending weekends there working and playing. I remember the rare Hibiscadelphus giffardianus, the rarest tree in the Arboretum at the time. Botanists would seek out my parents to come see the tree. The tree slowly faded and died.
Four years ago I became caretaker of Pu’u Mahoe. I knew the Arboretum needed more than just basic maintenance or its trees would just die of old age as the giffardianus. The seeds needed to be harvested, propagated and seedlings outplanted. The non-profit Friends of the Fleming Arboretum was created to help fund expenses beyond basic maintenance .Its Mission Statement:Preservation thru Protection, Propagation and Distribution.
In the last three years we have made great strides:
- The 50 year old infrastruture has been restored or replaced
- The health of the trees has been upgraded
- New species have been planted for a more complete collecton of the Maui’s dryland forest
- Greater populations of the rare species have been planted for better cross-pollination and stronger genetics
- Our botanical collection and propagation research has been shared with nurseries and botanists, seedlings used in reforestation projects in Auwahi and elsewhere
- We encourage community involment by sposoring propagation workshops,volunteer workdays and Arboretum tours the last weekend of every month
- We share the Arboretum and our propagation work worldwide thru our website.
These accomplishments have been made possible by the work of many: Our stellar Board of Directors, professionals in horticulture, conservation and wildlife, plant propagation and non-profit management. The nurserys that donate their time and greenhouse space, Dr.Art Medeiros and his 100-plus volunteers fencing and clearing 30 acres in Auwahi for a place to plant our seedlings, and the Erdmans of Ulupalakua Ranch who have made this possible.
It is the ultimate to goal to return these seedlings to their home of origin. This work was made possible by State, Federal and Hawaii Foundation grants, individual donars and volunteers. Last but far from least my husband who works hard to support our family, allowing me to leave Lowe’s Garden Department to give much of my time working in the Arboretum and managing the non-profit.
With the first germination and the outplanting this year of one of our rarest species the Maui Alani back into the Auwahi Forest, we have taken the first step saving this species from the threat of extinction. Much work lies ahead before we call a success. What is a success is the strong inertia forward created to continue this work.
I am honored to receive the Malama Kula Award on behalf of all the people that have helped make the Arboretum what it is today. Thankyou Kula Community Association for this acknowlegement which strenghtens the Arboretum and its goals.