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Apples in Hawai'i- it's all about elevation

Apples in Hawai'i- it's all about elevation

Just few types of temperate fruit are grown in Hawai'i. . .

There are a few native berries that have close temperate relatives:
The native O'helo berry grows above 4,000ft and reminds me of a cross between our two California huckleberries, the red and blue. The native Akala berry is nearly identical to our Salmon Berry, and grows above 3,000 ft

Strawberries and Raspberries are grown commercially in upper Kula, Maui (3,000ft+). Besides the sickly wine grapes Jeff mentioned that are grown commercially at Ulupalakua Maui (2500ft), a few acres are also grown on the dry side of Volcano, Big Island (4,000ft).
Persimmons, Figs and Loquats are found bearing well at low elevations, But those are pretty low chill 'temperate' or subtropical plants. I have never seen apples at lower elevations, though rumors persist. And it's true- the fruit flies are brutal.

Things really start to change as you get higher in elevation. This luxury of climate is found only in small areas of Maui, and a larger but still limited area on the Big Island. Frosts (32F) are known to occur maybe once a year at 2500ft-3000ft. At 6,000ft frosts are pretty dependable. Snow comes down to 9,000ft (Haleakala, Maui) once every few years. I have seen snow on the north face of Mauna Kea (14,000ft) in July.

To grow real deciduous fruit, 6,000 ft seems high enough.

Here is a recent account of an adventure to harvest apples, pears and walnuts at 6,000 ft on the east flank of Mauna Kea, island of Hawai'i

Look at these photos:


Any guesses on the variety of apple? Pears look like maybe Bartlett, Bosc, and Seckel?

This is a historic experimental orchard that was planted around 1890. Here is a brief account of the place 100 years ago:

The Hawaiian Forester and Agriculturist
By Board of Commissioners of Agriculture and Forestry, 1909

12 years on the Big Island, and I never made it up to the old orchard- but I did eat some apple pie friends made from fruit they harvested up there.

So not impossible, only rare, apples do grow in Hawai'i.

The following thread was started by John Valenzuela Sunsetz16-17,Novato,CA on September 25, 2008 at 3:22 am PST

Fruit in the clouds

Did some research on your figuires as I never heard of sub 32f degree temps at the 2500-3000ft elevation in Hawaii
( Lanai city is at nearly 2000ft ! )
I have been there and while not muggy tropical, its still tropical at that elevation.... at least warm enough for coconuts to grow as high .

Hawaii volcanoes national park HQ at
4000 ft, is still warmer than 99% of Ca Averages for Dec highes 67f/ low 50f...
Temps below 40f are rare there, and there never has been a freeze there...I wouldn't think there would be enough chill to grow apples that low... but as Axel said the do have so low chill varities

I did find a place with a weather station in Hawaii at the 5100ft elevation. called KULANI CAMP. Even at this altitude... temps are still mild... about like San Diego. 63 /43 in Dec.
As far as I can see... it has only dropped below 32f a couple of times in its history... with 31f as a record.

So as you mentioned... and back up by data that temperate fruits can be grown in Hawaii, you just to grow them you have to climb some tall moutains to do so .... not many people living at the 6000ft elevation!

Thanks for the info ... I dig this researching this stuff.


The above followup was added by Jeff on September 25, 2008 at 12:46 am PST.

Thanks for the true data on Hawai'i cold temps

Hey Jeff,

Great research. My stories were based on just my own personal impressions. Those actual temps are really suprising- I guess the numbers don't lie. I think it just feels like frost when it gets below 50F in the tropics.

The towns of Volcano (4,000), Kamuela/Waimea (3,000), and Kula (3,000) all have climates (and flora) that feel like Southern California to me. Warm days and cool nights (great for a sound sleep)

I am not sure if the actual elevation of the experimental orchard is 6,000 or closer to 5,300ft.

Yea, not many residents way up there at that altitude. In the old days there were the sheep herders, now just a few ranchers/cowboys. There is some Koa forest restoration work going on up at that elevation too (daily commute drive?).

Then there are the astronomers working at the 14,000ft summit of Mauna Kea . . . staying acclimatized by living at 9,000ft.

Do you ever get back to visit the Islands?

The above followup was added by John Valenzuela Sunsetz16-17,Novato,CA on September 25, 2008 at 11:13 pm PST.


Those mountain climates unlike a true temperate climate dont get warm or hot summers to balance the winter cold-right?
They are like cloudforests..the highs dont vary much -all year it could be 68f,low 58 or so.or lower numbers depending on how high ya go.
So,an apple could get all the winter chill it needs at 8,000 ft and never see above 58?.
My point is, Apples in the high tropics must have a hard time knowing what season it is..Hawaii might be different as it might be further north to have day lengths varie.But what about those right on the equator in Asia,South America,Africa?

The above followup was added by stan on September 27, 2008 at 8:25 am PST.

Warm days cool nights in Kamuela

This will be our 3rd winter living on the wet (east) side of Kamuela (a.k.a. Waimea) on the Big Island. Last winter was the coldest, when we consistantly registered mid-30's f at night. (Jan-Feb) Days got up to around 70 f. The daytime cloud cover keeps it warm, but when it clears up at night, it chills down quickly. We have a lot of things here that can't be grown in the rest of the state, and when the weather doesn't get cool enough, we find shortcuts. Like the time they iced down the roots of the cherry trees so we would have blossoms in time for the cherry blossom festival. However, I do have a bird-of-paradise plant and a stand of bananas in my backyard! My point is, if those are our temps, I'm pretty sure it gets colder up on the mountain. We're trekking to the orchard tomorrow, and we hope for lots of apples and pears.

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