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Learn about hula plants from kumu hula/botanist team

Join Ab Kawainohoikala‘i Valencia and Tim Tunison for a field seminar on “Plants of Hula: Na Mea Kanu o Ka Hula” in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, April 11.

“Please join us for this exciting program in celebration 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,” stated Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Elizabeth Fien.

From kumu hula Valencia, learn about hula plants as kino lau, manifestations of Hawaiian deities in plant form (as his Halau Hula Kalehuaki‘eki‘eika‘iu understands them). “There are plants for the hula altar, the kuahu, which include maile, ‘ie‘ie, ‘ilima, lehua, and halapepe. In addition, there are adornments—mele hula plants that are worn by the dancers—which include maile, ‘ilima, and lehua, plus palapalai, ‘a‘ali‘i, pukiawe, and ‘olapa,” Valencia explained.

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 Halema‘uma‘u 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,” said Valencia.

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

Tunison worked for the National Park Service for over 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 nonprofit 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 Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication or reasonable modification of policies and procedures to participate in this event should email or call 985-7373 as soon as possible, but no later than five days prior to the program start.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.


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