‘Ahakea in Hawaiian Culture: In addition to using ‘ahakea for canoes, Hawaiians used the wood to frame the opening of their hale (Krauss, 1993). The wood was also fashioned into paddles and papa ku‘i ‘ai or kalo-pounding boards (Malo, 1951). ‘Ahakea bark was one ingredient for a poultice uses for abscesses (Chun, 1994).
Collecting Seeds: Because ‘ahakea are (nearly) functionally dioecious, the first challenge is finding a fruit-producing tree. Fruits with viable seeds are about the size of a blueberry with light-yellow, wedge-shaped (3/8 inch long) seeds. Confusingly, ‘ahakea will produce smaller fruits containing smaller, non-viable seeds. The fruits ripen and turn purple in the spring and summer. Seeds stored in a refrigerator remain viable for at least ten years.
Growing from Seed: After sterilizing in bleach, soak the seeds for 5-7 days in a shallow pan of clean water before sowing in vermiculite. Using Method One, the seeds will begin sprouting in 4-5 weeks and continue for several more weeks. Transfer the seedlings to individual pots when they have 2-4 true leaves. Seedlings growth is slow to moderate, growing a maximum of about one inch per month. The seedlings are prone to attacks by spider mites; combat this pest with repeated sprayings of horticultural oil.
Growing from Cuttings: I have never grown this plant from cuttings.
Growth in the Garden: This species of ‘ahakea (I have not grown any other) is a challenge in the garden. First, the plant grows rather slowly, perhaps, 1-2 feet per year. Second, they are very prone to attack by black twig-borers. Fortunately, because the small tree branches profusely when planted in full sun (in shade, they do not put out many new branches and rarely produce flowers/fruits), these attacks normally do not kill the plant. The best defense against the borers is just enough watering to avoid drought-stress (but don’t overwater or your ‘ahakea may die from a root fungal infection) and prompt pruning of attacked branches. Third, ‘ahakea are susceptible to root mealbugs that can quickly kill them. Inspect the tree’s base and just under the soil surface regularly for mealybugs or the ants that often tend and protect them. Refer to Enemies in the Garden for combating these pests. On the good side, ‘ahakea begin flowering at a very small size – sometimes while they are still ten-inches tall in dibble tubes! Provided you have a male and female plant growing together, you should be able to start collecting fruit within two or three years; valuable insurance if you later lose the parent plant(s).
Diseases & Pests: see above
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