A group of "volunteer" seedlings discovered at the Waihe‘e Refuge this week sprouted a little excitement. Three years ago a group of students planted about a dozen naio seedlings, trees that are now over nine feet tall and beginning to propagate themselves. These native trees, common to coastal and lowland areas, were prevalent in Waihe‘e before the area was cleared for pastureland. In addition to providing shade, ancient Hawaiians used the tree trunks for house posts and it's branches were shaped into delicate needles used for crafting nets.
“These seedlings are a sign of the future health of the habitat” says HILT land steward James Crowe. That the land is beginning to produce it's own habitat-appropriate fauna, Crowe explains, means we have to intervene less. Proof positive that restoration efforts at the Waihe‘e Refuge are taking hold.
Naio is also colloquially known as bastard sandalwood. During the early 1800s when Hawaiian ali‘i were selling sandalwood to the Far East, the similarly scented naio was used as filler when supplies were running scarce. Unfortunately—or rather, fortunately—naio's scent faded en route and it was deemed an inferior product.