Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Week in Nature: The 1st week in December - Makali'i

What's Happening in Hawai'i
during the 1st Week in December (Makali'i):

According to one legend, this month takes its name from a great navigator who steered the first canoes to the islands. Maka means "eyes" and li'i is short for ali'i, so his name can be translated "Eyes of the Chief," indicating his importance and prowess at steering by the stars. The Pleiades are also called the Makali'i, perhaps because of their use in the ancient science of celestial navigation.

Ilima on Oahu.
Photo by C. Tucker.

It is said that the hero Makali'i was a great farmer as well as steersman and that his name was given to December because it is the month when he planted his crops. Tradition also says that it is the time when 'ilima (Sida fallax) withers and ko'oko'olau (Bidens spp.) blossoms. 'Ilima is a dryland plant famous today for the flowers it gives to the lei of O'ahu. In the old days, along with ko'oko'olau, it was equally valued for its many medicinal uses. A proverb says, Ola no i ka pua o ka 'ilima - "There is healing in the 'ilima blossom."

'Ilima at Mokolii on Oahu.

Drawn image and text taken from "Hawai'i: A Calendar of Natural Events" 
published by Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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