n. Native hardwood shrubs or trees (Dodonaea, all species), 30 cm to 10 m high, more or less sticky at branch tips; leaves narrow, 2 to 10 cm long; flowers small; fruit a yellow, red, or brown papery capsule about 1 cm long and with two to four wings. Fruit clusters are made into leis with their own leaves or ferns and worn in the hair.
ʻAʻaliʻi is a plant that grows profusely in several areas of Hawaiʻi Island, namely the dry side of Waimea and the upland parts of Waikoloa, Waikiʻi, and, of course, Kaʻū. It is a low growing bush that seems to love high, dry, windy areas. I have seen the plant grow in warmer and wetter areas but not nearly as prolific. Lots of leaves. Minimal color. When it “fruits” the capsules change from light green to a beautiful burgundy that makes wonderful lei and wreaths. It can be quite striking and it dries beautifully.
What many people do not know is that the ʻaʻaliʻi is a symbol of strength and steadfastness in the face of adversity. In fact, the people of Kaʻū are frequently compared to the ʻaʻaliʻi plant, as is stated in this well known ʻōlelo noʻeau:
Heʻaʻaliʻi kū makani mai au, ʻaʻohe makani nāna e kulaʻi – I am a wind-resisting ʻaʻaliʻi, no gale can push me over. (an epithet for the people of Kaʻū)
In other words, I can withstand adversity, I can hold my own in the face of difficulties. Theʻaʻaliʻi plant can survive through the worst of winds, it bends with the force but seldom breaks of falls over, unlike other plants.
There is also this ʻōlelo noʻeau about theʻaʻaliʻi:
He hina na ka ʻaʻaliʻi kū makani, he ʻulaʻa pū me ka lepo – When the wind-resistingʻaʻaliʻi falls, it lifts the sod up with its roots. (This is a boast: When I, a powerful kanaka, fall, others will fall with me.)
Some of our Hawaiian plants stand tall, look beautiful, and are wonderful symbols of great attributes (koa – warrior strength; ʻulu – growth; kukui – enlightenment) but in fierce winds these great trees may topple. Koa forests and many other Hawaiian plants are destroyed by feral animals and cattle. But theʻaʻaliʻi can withstand the prodding of cattle, the droughts of Kona side on Hawaiʻi, and the seemingly never-ending winds.
At times we all need to be like theʻaʻaliʻi. As we face adversity in our jobs, in our personal lives, and all of our other “lives” let us be like theʻaʻaliʻi, and withstand the gale force winds that come our way, in hopes that good weather is right around the corner.
Copyright: 2015 – Liana Iaea Honda. All rights reserved. All versions of He Momi e Lei ai”, in its entirety, past and present, is the property of L. K. I. Honda. Reproduction and use of any kind other than the sharing of this website is prohibited. Alteration to the original content in any form is prohibited in every and any instance, and use in any other variant is prohibited without written consent of the author. Adress inquiries to: hemomi [at] gmail.com. Definitions and wise sayings are from: Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert, 1986. ʻŌlelo Noʻeau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, 1983.