‘Ōlapa (Cheirodendron trigynum) is the hula plant of the day, honoring the sixth day of the 50th annual Merrie Monarch Festival. ‘Ōlapa, which means dancer in Hawaiian, was named for the way its graceful leaves flutter in the slightest breeze.
This small to medium-sized tree is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, and
its lovely oval-shaped, yellow-green leaves seem to sparkle in the
sunlight. Hawaiians use its dark purplish fruits, leaves and bark to
make a bluish-black dye, and weave the leaves into lei, according to
Beatrice Krauss, author of “Plants in Hawaiian Culture.”
‘Ōlapa are abundant in the park’s rain forests, and are noticeable along
Highway 11 when approaching the park entrance from Puna. They are also
observed growing along the path leading to Thurston Lava Tube, and in
other rain forest sections of the park. Visit the Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association park stores for a marvelous selection of books and other merchandise celebrating all things Hawaiian.