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Hawai’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife -100 ‘Ulu Trees!
The Hawai’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife highlights 100 ‘ulu trees across the state to commemorate the National Association of State Foresters #CentennialChallenge. ‘Ulu or breadfruit, (Artocarpus altilis, Moracceae) is one of our most bioculturally important trees due to its multiple uses, functions, and associated values. ‘Ulu is one of the plants transported to Hawai‘i in the voyaging canoes of the first Polynesian settlers and today it continues to be planted throughout the Hawaiian islands.
‘Ulu is also said to have been created by the god Ku during a time of famine. He transformed himself into an ‘ulu tree to feed his family and the trees were then cultivated throughout Hawai‘i. ‘Ulu sustained the Hawaiian population for over a millennia and its starchy, protein and nutrient-rich fruit continues to be eaten firm and unripe (tasting like a potato) to soft and ripe (tasting like a ripe banana). It is baked, boiled, fried, roasted, dried and even milled into flour.
Beyond food, ‘ulu has a constellation of other uses: its wood has been used for construction, canoes, firewood, drums, serving platters; its sap was used as a glue for bird catching and caulking for canoe repair; its inner bark is pounded and used to make cloth; its leaves are used for lei (garlands). ‘Ulu sap and leaves also have medicinal applications.
In addition, ‘ulu has social value. Because the trees are so highly productive, it is not only the tree’s owner who benefits, but also the many other households who are gifted fruits. Fruit giving is a practice that helps to initiate and reinforce social relationships. Recipients often reciprocate with other fruit from their yards or through other kinds of expressions of gratitude and friendship.
Through support from our Kaulunani Urban & Community Forestry Grant Program over 100 ‘Ulu trees were distributed and planted over the last year on three islands.
- O‘ahu: Seedlings were grown by College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and then cared for by Hi‘ipaka LLC and the Women’s Community Correctional Center residents and finally distributed on Arbor Day (Nov 2nd) at Waimea Valley, Urban Garden Center, Wahiawa Botanical Garden, Foster Botanical Garden, and Kailua Methodist Church. Community members then planted and enriched their own home landscapes.
- Kaua‘i and Moloka‘i: Mālama Kaua‘i, in partnership with Sustainable Molokai, distributed ‘ulu trees and provided training on planting and tree care as part of the Canoe Tree Giveaways for the Health & Resiliency of the Lāhui. The program builds upon community and environmental health, well-being, resiliency, and food security.
Over their lifespan (average 50 years), these 100 ʻulu trees will:
- prevent 7,770,000 gallons of storm water runoff,
- remove 10,000 pounds of pollutants from the atmosphere,
- store 1,300,000 pounds of carbon their woody material,
- sequester (remove) 455,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, and
- yield 1,250,000 fruits weighing 5,000,000 pounds valued at $2,000,000
Across Hawai‘i, ‘ulu trees support environmental benefits, social relationships, food sovereignty, cultural vitality, sense of place, clean air, healthy watersheds, and they are an excellent way to celebrate the NASF 100th anniversary.
1 “The Gift of Kü – Spirit of Trees.” 15 Nov. 2013, https://spiritoftrees.org/the-gift-of-ku. Accessed 6 May. 2020.
2 “Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawai`i: `ULU.” https://www.canoeplants.com/ulu.html. Accessed 6 May. 2020.
4 “i-Tree Planting Calculator.” https://planting.itreetools.org/. Accessed 6 May. 2020.
5 “Breadfruit Production Guide – Hawaii Department of Agriculture.” https://hdoa.hawaii.gov/add/files/2014/05/Breadfruit_Production_Guide_web_edition.pdf. Accessed 6 May. 2020.