Daisy Lee

Daisy Lee shows off a finished Banana poka basket. Photo by Anne E. O’Malley

Banana Poka Basket Making Workshop

Save the Forest — Make a Basket

Saturday, August 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Here’s a fun activity. Spend a day at Koke`e. Meet at 10 a.m. in the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow fronting the Koke`e Museum.

From there, you’ll  hele on into the forest to collect Banana poka vines, then return and weave them into baskets.

Who’d ever have guessed that when somebody intentionally introduced Banana poka into the uplands for the purpose of hiding an outhouse, that the plant would get so out of hand. One of the scourges of the forest, it climbs over native flora and shuts out the sunlight, effectively killing trees and under-story plants.

In an attempt to control the Banana poka, the state of Hawai`i released a moth and a fungus, both from the Andes in South America, where the plant is a native. The moth feeds on the leaves, while the powdery mildew fungus infects the leaves and causes them to drop off.

Both of these bio-controls are successful, but the fight goes on. The resilient and spreading banana poka vines, sporting candy-pink blossoms, threaten to crowd out native Hawaiian plants and trees of the upland forest.

Years ago, Koke’e Natural History Museum’s Executive Director, Marsha Erickson and Kaua’i artist Jennie Hutchings, a master basket weaver, discussed options for dealing with Banana poka. Eureka! They started a whole new functional art form on Kauai–Banana poka basket making.

So go ahead. Make a Banana poka basket and commit some of those vines to a life of inescapable servitude.

Wai Kuapahi, a Hui O Laka board member — the group that runs the museum and oversees interpretation in the park — will be the instructor.

Koke`e Museum folks advise that you wear closed shoes, dress in pants and a long-sleeved shirt for collecting, bring a lunch and plenty of water, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

If you’re already a museum member, the fee of $15 you’ll pay will go to a cause that’s forest-related. If you’re not already a museum member, the fee of $15 you’ll pay will make you one.

Call 808-335-9975 for information.