OHIA--LEHUA is the native name for a tree which abounds in Puna, the region of the volcanic home of the goddess Pele. It has a continual growth of delicately shaded leaves. The young leaf, pink tinted, comes as the old leaf shading into gray falls from the tree. Flowers which are like beautiful red fringed balls are always found glorifying the varicolored foliage. Here honey-loving birds and bees find their best feeding-places.
The ohia forests grow abundantly and rapidly on lava even recently thrown out by the eruptions from Pele's lake of fire. The ohia roots seem
[1. Metrosideros polymorpha.]
to find food and drink, where the numerous cracks of a lava field open in every direction, and vie with the tree ferns in making life take the place of the desolation caused by the volcanic floods.
About half way between the city of Hilo and the volcano Kilauea, there stood for many, many years an old ohia tree. It was so old that it had become legendary and was known as "Ka laau o Pele" (The tree of Pele). Whenever a native came near this tree, he began to search for certain leaves or fruits which he could lay beneath the tree as an offering before he dared to try to pass beyond. These sacrifices were supposed to appease the wrath of the goddess and assure the traveller safe passage through Pele's dominions.