Thursday, February 9, 2012 a few Tree Huggers took a trip to Leeward Community College to help folks from the Wai'anae Mountains Watershed Partnership collect Pili grass (Heteropogon contortus) seeds.
Pili grass is an indigenous clumping grass that grows well in dry and moist conditions. It is now commonly used for erosion control but has been historically used for thatch. In Hawaiian, pili means to cling or stick. The seeds of pili grass twist, cling, and stick to each other in clumps. When the clumps get heavy they fall towards the ground. Using the spearhead or harpoon-like tips on the seeds, pili grass digs itself into the ground to start new growth. The seeds look a little like they are dancing as they dig themselves into the ground.
Since pili seeds have a six month dormancy, the seeds we collected today will be stored until they are ready to be planted in six months. The pili will be grown and used around the future site of the Mililani Middle School greenhouse as well as in the Wai'anae mountain range.
The Tree Huggers also got to see the greenhouse at Leeward Community College where many other native plants are growing, like this Alula (Brighamia sp.), an endagered and endemic species from Kaua'i and Ni'ihau.
The native pollinator of the Alula plants has gone extinct and people must hand pollinate plants in order to propagate the plants by seed.