Is this above and beyond the call of duty? I have spent the last week of work weeding a cliff. Not my usual job here at the Botanical Garden – more often than not I work far away from the valley in which the garden is situated. But we have a grant to support the full restoration of a cliff zone along a ridge extending into Lawai Valley, right above our greenhouse.
The cool thing about the site is that amid mostly weedy tree species – like haole koa, java plum and christmasberry – there’s a population of a threatened hawaiian plant, Schiedea spergulina. It’s a delicate little thing in the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) that you only find growing on cliff faces on the south and western side of Kauai.
The federal government has given grants just like ours to people and organizations all over for critical habitat recovery. But most folks are failing to meet the requirements specified in their grants. So that the money isn’t lost, the agency managing the grants is revising many of these requirements. My boss recently approached me to say that now all we need to do is get rid of one exotic species - Furcraea foetida, a type of agave - along the cliff by September 30th and we can collect on the grant.
I never knew taking an arborist course would put me at a disadvantage - I imagined using the skills to collect seeds high up in the canopy…but now the task of removing all the agave from the cliff has come down to me. So I ordered myself some proper tree-climbing gear (we typically use lighter rock-climbing equipment) and got out onto the ropes.
I’ve been harnessed in on the cliff face 7 to 8 hours a day for the past week, cutting back the Furcraea with a handsaw and poisoning it with garlon. I try not to think about how much money an arborist company would charge for the same job. I go crazy enough between the cut-cut-cutting and inhaling herbicide all day.