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Pulelehua butterfly, Kolea lau nui, 'ilihia
Date Issued: 2010-09-01
Postage Value: 44 cents

Commemorative issue
Hawaiian Rain Forest
Pulelehua butterfly, Kolea lau nui, 'ilihia

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is one of the two species of butterfly native to Hawaii (the other is Udara blackburni). The Hawaiian name is pulelehua. This is today a catch-all native term for all butterflies; its origin seems to be pulelo "to float" or "to undulate in the air" + lehua, a Metrosideros polymorpha flower: an animal that floats through the air, from one lehua to another. Alternatively, it is called lepelepe-o-Hina - roughly, "Hina's fringewing" - which is today also used for the introduced Monarch butterfly. The Kamehameha butterfly was named the state insect of Hawaii in 2009, due to the work of a group of 5th graders from Pearl Ridge Elementary.

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of plants in the Urticaceae family, especially those of māmaki (Pipturus albidus) but also ōpuhe (Urera spp.), ʻākōlea (Boehmeria grandis), olonā (Touchardia latifolia), and maʻoloa (Neraudia spp.). Adults eat the sap of koa (Acacia koa) trees.
 
It is named after the royal House of Kamehameha; the last king of this lineage, Kamehameha V, had died in 1872, a short time before this species was described. The specific name tameamea is an old-fashioned and partially wrong transcription of "Kamehameha." The Hawaiian language has no strict distinction between the voiceless alveolar plosive and voiceless velar plosive; use varies from island to island but today "k" is used as the standard transliteration. The voiceless glottal transition "h" is distinct and should always be pronounced - for example, "aloha" is correct whereas "aloa" is a wrong pronunciation. Thus, while "Tamehameha" would be a legitimate transcription (though considered old-fashioned on most islands), "Tameamea" is not.

Kolea Lau Nui is endemic to the Hawaiian islands; occurs on slopes, ridges, and in open forest sites, primarily in mesic to wet forest and margins of bogs, but also in dry forest (Lana`i, Maui, subalpine woodland (Maui, Hawai`i), and pioneer shrubland (Hawai`i), 700-7190 ft, on all of the main islands except Ni`ihau and Kaho`olawe

Kolea is a handsome wood as well as a handsome tree of landscape and understory potential; pinkish-yellow wood of moderate hardness, with pronounced reddish-brown medullary rays much like oak or silk oak; care should be taken to locate propagative material from specimens that are large, if timber value is to be a consideration; to 50 ft tall, 24 inch dbh; specific gravity approx. 0.55

Traditionally, wood was used for house posts and beams, and for anvils on which to beat kapa (bark cloth); the red sap was used to dye kapa, and a black kapa dye was made from the charcoal

'Ilihia is a member of the African Violet fFamily. These have large fuzzy leaves, like a giant violet. There are supposed to be many subspecies and hybrids of cyrtandra platyphylla, but the large round fuzzy leaves of the plants shown here are very distinctive among cyrtandras.

Topics: Butterflies (32)  Flower (402)  

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