Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Acerola (Malpighia emarginata sometimes referred to as Malpighia glabra) is an attractive large shrub to small tree that produces flowers with bright pink ruffled petals and red fleshy fruit. This plant from the Malpighiaceae family is native to Mexico through South America and is also known as Barbados cherry or West Indian cherry. It grows best in well-draining soils with full to partial sun. Size can be maintained by pruning and can be trained to grow along a fence or be kept as a bush for easy fruit harvest. They produce flowers year-round, usually with three peak flowering periods in Hawai‘i. The tart fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, but because they bruise easily, fruit typically last only a couple days after harvest. They are best eaten right off the plant or can be preserved by making juice, syrups or jellies.
At first glance, acerola may be confused with surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora), which also produces a red fleshy fruit; however, surinam cherry fruits have multiple ridges, which make them look like little red pumpkins, and the flowers are vastly different – white petals with multiple stamens typical of the Myrtaceae family. They also taste different. In my opinion, acerola has a tart, fresh flavor that doesn’t leave a resin-y aftertaste like surinam cherry.
For more information about acerola go to the following links:
Did you also know 2023 is the year of the kāhuli (Hawaiian land snail)?
On Thursday, Feb. 23 Governor Green declared 2023 to be the year of the kāhuli. What are kāhuli? They are Hawaiian land snails that live only in Hawai‘i. Don’t confuse them with the African snails that munch on your garden plants. Kāhuli snails typically live in upper-forested areas and are comprised of 10 different families. They come in all different shapes, sizes and colors and typically feed on fungus that grows on leaves, detritus (decaying organic matter) or moss and lichen. Depending on the family, the snails can live on the ground – in rock rubble or leaf litter or hang out in the trees. Their shells can be cone shaped, cinnamon bun-shaped or flat shells that are too small for the snail to fit in. Shell colors range from white-tan to rusty brown to yellow-green-brown-white. It is not likely you will come across kāhuli in urban areas unless you visit the Honolulu Zoo later this year where they will have an exhibit for the public to see these jewels of the forest.
Agencies and organizations across the state are dedicated to protecting these endangered species from threats such as habitat loss and predation from rats, Jackson chameleons, and rosy wolf snails. Check out the link to learn more about the kāhuli snails, the people that protect them, and more about 2023 year of the kāhuli: dlnr.hawaii.gov/ecosystems/year-of-the-kahuli/