A Place for Palms

By Shipley, Julia | American Forests, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

A Place for Palms


Shipley, Julia, American Forests


PLANTING ONE TREE A DAY on degraded land for almost 40 years, William Stanley Merwin, former Poet laureate of the United States, has seen his patience pay off. Little by little, tree by tree, he has created a lush grove of thousands of palms on the Maui hillside that he calls home.

Despite Maui's 12-month growing season and abundant vegetation, the agricultural developments of the last century have left some portions of Hawaii's second largest island in poor condition. The land Merwin would plant his palms on had originally been native forest, but--like vast swaths in Maui's valley and highlands--had been razed to become profitable sugarcane fields and pineapple plantations. The latter reached its production zenith in the early 1960s and then commenced a steep decline. By the time nutrient-depleted pineapple parcels in Haiku on Maui's northern coast were put up for sale as small 2-to 3-acre lots, they were listed on the Soil Survey Maps of1963 as "wasteland."

When Merwin purchased his initial lot in 1977, he planted a tree, though this first tree was not a palm. Intending to return the land to native species, Merwin discovered these species no longer survived in the poor soil. Some of his first plantings included evergreen trees of the genus Casuarinas. Given the invasive nature of some of the earliest species of Casuarinas planted on the islands, the genus had earned a mixed reputation in Hawaii and Merwin deliberately avoided these. "I was careful to plant species that had no such intrusive habits," he recalls in his 2010 essay, "The House and Garden: The Emergence of a Dream." With their ability to put nitrogen back in the soil and shed their numerous needles to form a moisture trapping, weed-smothering mantle, the Casuarinas made a noticeable difference in the health of the landscape within a few years. When Merwin tried planting native trees again, most still did not fare well, but thanks to the improved soil, the Hawaiian palms did. They settled in and grew, inspiring Merwin to plant more palms--both native and exotic varieties--as his revised route of re-vegetation.

"Only a forest knows how to make a forest," Merwin says, but that hasn't stopped him from lending a hand, devoting some portion of his day--and now life--to germinating palm seeds, nurturing the seedlings, identifying a spot, spading a hole and planting a palm, eventually establishing a living library of over 850 of the world's palm species. As a result of this diligent, incremental reforestation, now, when this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet enters his driveway, he comes home to a jungle.

The diversity of palm species on the densely planted 19-acre property is astonishing. Along the property's shaded, sinewy paths, exquisite palm varieties flaunt a potpourri of leaves and fronds. One has broad leaves that feel synthetic like nylon; another has crin-lded leaves like a venetian blind; another arrays its fronds in a fishtail formation. There are palms with suede-like fuzz, palms with coarse hair and palms with zebra stripes on their trunks. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Place for Palms
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.