Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Imposter Tree

Tonight I am sitting on the couch with my partner -- the two of us side-by-side, each with a laptop computer in our laps -- and I showed him a photo I took today. I said, "Honey (he's a botanist/oceanographer), what is this flower?" And he casually says, "Gopher wood."

Koa Haole

I can't tell you how many times some one in church has muttered to me, or me to them, "Just what the heck is gopher bark?" And the answer is, "Who knows?" I looked at my love and sang, "God said to Noah to build me an arky, arky ... That kind of gopher wood?"

He answers, "It's Acacia and some scholars think it might be golpher wood. Others claim that gopher wood is really cypress."

Acacia trees come in many types and there are a startling number of varieties here on the island. The Acacia Koa is one of my favorites. In the photo above the white fuzz ball is the flower of the plant, the green knobby ball is the flower bud and the brown behind it is a withered flower. (Another of my Acacia favorites is the Rainbow Shower Tree, which you can see here.)

The leaves first drew my attention to the plant. They look like the Sensitive Plant, so I touched them expecting them to curl. They didn't. The scent of the flower came to my nose -- very lite and sweet. I snapped the photo, returned to our condo, uploaded my memory card, opened the photo and queried, "Honey. what's this?" And received a lesson in Biblical history.

Update: With just a little online research my partner discovered this tree is an imposter! It is the Koa Haole*. It is a cousin of the Acacia and the Rainbow Shower tree, but is is NOT gopher wood. The natives gave this tree the name, haole, because it is an import and an impostor of the real thing. OC started his research when I mentioned that the leaves of the plant are what caught my attention. The leaves I described were very different from the leaves he knew grew on the Acacia Koa. He started looking online. Then I got a lesson in scientific integrity. The photo now bears the correct name and the information given is now accurate.

*Haole is the Hawaiian word for foreigner.


Nea said...

It minds me a lot of the Mimosa...that I have in my yard, the leaves are the same and it has pink flowers that look similar.

quilly said...

Nea -- OC says they look very much the same because they are in the same family -- cousins even.


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