Saturday, January 16

Rarotonga’s flowering trees

First an update on the airport upgrade. It’s going to be completed much earlier than I thought.
According to Cook Islands News, the project manager Russell Smith says everything should be ready by the end of March.
Some people wonder why on earth the Cook’s is bothering with an expensive building project for the relatively few planes we have each week, but firstly the US insisted because of airport security after 9/11. The Cooks has a direct link to LA and we don't want to lose it.The second reason is that the airport, while adequate, was a bit old and dingy. Since we had to improve security anyway the Airport Authority borrowed the money from one of the local commercial banks and decided to do it in style.
This new video is of some of the flowering trees along Rarotonga’s main road.
The best time of year to see flowers is late November, early December. That’s when the Tiare Festival takes place and trees, bushes and flowers should all be at their best then.
However even in January there’s still plenty of colour and variety. This video shows just a few of the trees, but bushes, particularly hibiscus, are still in full bloom.
Actually most of the trees pictured have been introduced to the Cooks. The flamboyants are natives of Madagascar although they were introduced from Sri Lanka in 1892 (Cook Islands Biodiversity Database). The cassias are from SE Asia (India and China) and frangipani is native to Mexico.
Only the beach (or tree) hibiscus is either native to the Cooks or was introduced by the Polynesians.
I think an Irishman, William McBirney (1871 – 1956) was responsible for bringing many flowering plants to Rarotonga.
It wouldn’t be possible nowadays, of course, with border restrictions on plant and animal material but all these newcomers make a wonderfully colourful splash and keep Rarotonga looking like a tropical island paradise.