Categorized | Environment

Learn about hula plants from kumu hula / botanist team (April 27)

Ab Valencia and dancers (Photo courtesy of Dave Boyle)


On Saturday, April 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Ab Kawainohoikalai Valencia and Tim Tunison lead the field seminar “Plants of Hula: Na Mea Kanu o Ka Hula” in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“Please join us for this exciting program, following on the heels of the Merrie Monarch Festival, in which a kumu hula (hula teacher/master) and botanist team up for a cultural and scientific exploration of the plants used in hula,” Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Elizabeth Fien said.

From kumu hula Valencia, learn about hula plants as kino lau, manifestations of Hawaiian deities in plant form (as his Halau Hula Kalehuakiekieikaiu understands them).

“There are plants for the hula altar, the kuahu, which include maile, ieie, ilima, lehua, and halapepe. Plus, there are adornments — mele hula plants that are worn by the dancers — which include maile, ilima, and lehua, plus palapalai, aalii, pukiawe, and olapa,” Valencia said.

Participants meet at the Kilauea Visitor Center. The day begins with a welcoming oli (chant), followed by a short walk to the kahua hula — the hula platform that overlooks Halemaumau Crater, home to the volcano goddess Pele.

Next the group will drive to Kilauea Overlook to discuss cultural protocols used when picking plants — and to walk among native species in their natural environment, with scientific information and insight shared by botanist Tunison.

“After lunch, we’ll visit Tunison’s property in Volcano Village, where he is restoring the land to its native ecosystem. We’ll get a hands-on lesson in native plant propagation, plus receive plant seedlings to grow at home,” Valencia said.

Valencia was born and raised in Honolulu, though his ohana (family) was originally from Hilo. He established Halau Hula Kalehuakiekieikaiu in Honolulu in 1991, and currently maintains his halau (school) in Honolulu as well as Volcano.

Tunison worked for the National Park Service for more than 30 years. He was a botanist at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from 1982-1994 and Chief of Resource Management from 1995-2006, when he retired.

Since then, Tunison has taught field botany, native plant propagation, and forest restoration.

This event is presented by the Hawaii Volcanoes Institute, a program of the Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a non-profit organization.

Program cost is $45 for Friends members and $65 for non-members. Students (K-12 and college with valid student ID) are $25. Non-members are welcome to join the Friends in order to get the member discount.

To register for the “Plants of Hula” field seminar, call 985-7373 or visit:

Marsha Hee and Diana Kelley (Photo courtesy of Jay Robinson)

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