The algaroba in Hawaii


Material Information

The algaroba in Hawaii
Series Title:
Press bulletin ;
Physical Description:
8 p. : ; 23 cm.
Wilcox, Earley Vernon, b. 1869
Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station
Place of Publication:
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Mesquite -- Hawaii   ( lcsh )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Statement of Responsibility:
by E.V. Wilcox.
General Note:
Caption title.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 029635525
oclc - 758871942
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The algaroba, or keawe (Prosopis juliflora), is commonly
recognized as the most valuable tree which has thus far been in-
troduced into the Territory of Hawaii. The accounts of its first
introduction into the Territory are somewhat at variance. At
the corner lot belonging to the Catholic Cathedral of Honolulu
stands an algaroba tree which is supposed to be the first one in-
troduced, and which bears a tablet stating that it was planted by
Father Bachelot in 1837. In support of this tablet we find the
following statement in an article on the "History of the Hawaii-
an Missions,"' referring to the second visit of Father Bachelot
to Honolulu: "On his return from California he had planted
in the Mission grounds four shoots of the algaroba tree, until
then unknown in the Islands. Only one of these had taken root
and was now growing fast. As the worn-down missionary left
his mission house, never again to return to it, he looked upon the
plant with moistened eyes and said as though prophetically:
'Even as this young tree by Divine Providence will thrive and
.cover the whole of the island with its shade,' etc. Essentially

1 Damien Institute, Vol. 12, 1903, No. 12, pages 190 and 191.

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Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station,

E. V. WILCOX, Special Agent in Charge. / I. L',4


The Algaroba in Haw* ,\

By E. V. WILCOX, %rS
Special Agent in Charge, Hawaii Agricultural Experim nd,,,*en
Station, United States Department of Agriculture.


the same statement was translated into French and subsequently
published.' In the "Pacific Commercial Advertiser" for Janu-
ar 1, 1900, in an article by H. M. Whitney, we find the follow-
.'.. irg A httqment placing the same date upon the first introduction,
t 6i t*ibteting it to another man: "The algaroba-by far the
k:" most ;rvaaable tree on the Islands-was introduced by seeds
r brought frpoi Chile by Bishop Maigret, and the first tree started
t Lby R4l 'i& now growing in the north corner of the Catholic
,\"?' A drawing of the Catholic Cathedral at Hono-
60 l lu lu.was.made in 1842 and was subsequently published in Paris
.tkcer-tain notations. In this drawing the original algaroba
S. tree is shown standing considerably higher than the Cathedral.
This would obviously have been impossible if the tree had been
only five years old at the time the drawing was made. Below
the drawing of the Cathedral is a printed statement in French,
which, translated, reads as follows: "Tree planted by Mr. Bach-
elot in 1828. It is a magnificent Acacia. The seed was brought
from the Jardin du Roi de Paris." Father Reginald, Librarian
of the Catholic Cathedral, has looked up all of the records relat-
ing to the introduction of the algaroba and considers 1828 as
undoubtedly the correct date. He states in a recent letter to
Father Valentin that in 1837 there were already several alga-
roba trees from the seed of the first one. Moreover, the state-
ment in the previous quotation, that, the original tree came from
a shoot imported from California, may be considered as some-
what doubtful on account of the difficulty of propagating the
tree from shoots, except under favorable conditions. Shoots
brought by sailing vessel from California would, ordinarily, not
be in good condition for planting upon their arrival.
There are eighteen or more species of Prosopis, the natural
habitat of which is in tropical and semi-tropical America. The
algaroba occurs from Texas to Chile and in the West Indies.
2 Ann. Sacres Coeurs, 1896, pages 288-290.

Another species (Prosopis glandulosa), known also as the Texas
mesquite, is found alongside of the algaroba in Texas, and there
are a few trees of this species on Molokai. Seeds from these
trees have also been planted in other localities. If we accept as
true the statement that the original seeds were brought from
Paris by Father Bachelot on his first trip to the Islands, it is
impossible to determine their exact origin. The tree is, of
course, not native in France and the seeds must have been
brought there from some other locality.
The distribution of algaroba in Hawaii is largely determined
by the rainfall conditions. The tree thrives best in dry localities,
and is somewhat sensitive to salt air. Nevertheless, on the wind-
ward side of Lanai there is a fine belt of algaroba which extends
to within a few hundred feet of the seashore. The trees which
grow nearest the water on the leeward side of the Islands, some-
times have the leaves destroyed by salt spray during Kona
storms, but recover later, showing little effects from the salt
water. Algaroba thrives best at low altitudes, but is everywhere
gradually extending to higher levels, and it is found in some
localities at altitudes as high as two thousand feet. Apparently,
it is gradually becoming acclimated to the higher altitudes, but
it bears most abundantly at lower levels. Considerable attention
has been given to the distribution of this tree in carrying it from
one island or locality to another, but, on the whole, its distribu-
tion has been largely accomplished by stock. Practically all of
the islands have enormous belts of algaroba forest, extending
from the sea-shore, on the leeward side, up to an altitude of 800
or 1,000 feet.
There are few trees which are distinctly useful for more pur-
poses than is true for the algaroba. Its flowers furnish the most
important source of pure honey known in the Territory. The
bee-raisers of the Territory have shown an active interest in
securing the rights of placing apiaries so as to utilize to the full-


est extent the algaroba forests. The yield of honey is recognized
as large and important, and occurs at two seasons, there being
two crops of flowers and pods annually.
As a forage crop algaroba is of far greater financial value.
The pods are everywhere recognized as one of the most impor-
tant grain feeds of the islands and are greatly relished by all
kinds of live stock, including chickens. The quantities of pods
produced by the algaroba forests cannot be estimated, even ap-
proximately, for a large proportion of the pods are allowed to
fall on the ground and are eaten by cattle, hogs and horses, with-
out being previously picked up. It has been estimated that ap-
proximately 500,000 bags of the beans are annually picked up
and stored, particularly for feeding horses and cattle. On two
or three estates at least 15,000 bags of beans are annually stored
for this purpose.
Algaroba wood also constitutes one of the best and chief
sources of fuel in the Territory. Its growth is comparatively
rapid and the larger trees can be removed for fuel, thus making
room for the growth of another generation of trees. In addition
to these uses of the algaroba, it might also be stated that the bark
contains tannin, and the gum is suitable for use in varnish.
Being a legume, and of remarkable penetrating power in the
soils, it is also a soil-maker of some importance. As a shade
and ornamental tree it is highly appreciated. The form of the
tree is graceful and spreading. The small branches furnish ex-
cellent material for making charcoal. Piles made from algaroba
are relatively free from the attack of the Toredo. Moreover,
since the pods contain a high percentage of sugar, they may
be used in the manufacture of denatured alcohol and vinegar.
The algaroba is chiefly interesting on account of the enormous
quantity of forage which the beans furnish. As already stated,
all kinds of farm stock are very fond of them, and their feeding
value has long been recognized from the practical results ob-

trained. As a feeding material there seems to be only one objec-
tion to them, and that is, a slight flavor given to milk when the
beans are fed in excess to the dairy cows. This objection, how-
ever, could be overcome by feeding the beans after milking,
rather than before milking. The whole pods of the algaroba
show the following percentage composition: Water 15.26, pro-
tein 8.89, fat .58, nitrogen free extract 47.27, crude fibre 24.75,
ash 3.25. The seeds alone, however, have the following percent-
age composition: Water 14.38, protein 33.62, fat 3.94, nitrogen
free extract 36.78, crude fibre 6.84, ash 4.44. It has long been
known that on account of the hard case, like that of a shark's
egg, surrounding each seed, the seeds themselves are not digested
by live stock. On this account, if the pods are fed whole, the
protein content is largely lost and the pods do not furnish a
ration so well balanced as would be the case if the seeds were
rendered digestible.
Realizing the great importance of algaroba beans as a forage,
a number of persons made attempts to grind the pods, in order
to crack the beans, and thus render them available as food. Mr.
Paul Isenberg spent a great deal of time and money in this ex-
periment, during which confident promises of success were made
by mainland millers, without ultimate success. Similarly, Mr.
F. G. Krauss of this Station, while connected with the Kameha-
meha Schools, had experiments made by six or more mainland
concerns who at first believed that some of their mills, designed
for grinding drugs and miscellaneous materials, would success-
fully meet the problem of grinding algaroba beans. All their
tests, however, proved that the machinery then in use was not
adapted to grinding the algaroba. The difficulty in the way of
grinding the beans is furnished by the large amount of sugar in
the pulp of the pods. This sugar is in essentially the condition
of molasses and gradually accumulates on the milling machinery,
forming a layer resembling vulcanized rubber in consistency,
and ultimately causing a heating of the machinery so that it has
to be stopped. The cleaning of mill machinery which has once

been coated with this layer is a very tedious and difficult opera-
Two years ago this Station began experiments in grinding
algaroba beans and soon came to the conclusion that special
machinery was needed for this purpose. It was found that vari-
ous milling machines would successfully do the work for a few
minutes, or perhaps for half an hour, but that ultimately the
coating of moistened sugar on the machinery rendered further
operation impossible. It was found, however, that the addition
of a very small quantity of water to the cracked pods was suffi-
cient to render the sugar in the pods no longer sticky. The ex-
traction of a portion of the sugar, by means of water, makes it
possible to dry the cracked pods in a condition in which any
feed-grinder will successfully crack the seeds. The removal of
a portion of the sugar, however, takes away some of the feeding
value of the beans and renders an alcohol or vinegar plant neces-
sary in order to utilize the sugar thus extracted. The desirabil-
ity of special machinery, which would successfully crack the
beans in fresh, imltreated pods, became therefore more and more
apparent. Finally the interest of a trained mechanic and in-
ventor, Mr. C. W. Renear, was enlisted, and after several months
of experimenting, he succeeded in devising a machine which
would grind the fresh beans, cracking all of the seeds, and thus
rendering them available for stock. The feeding test made by
this Station showed that the seeds thus cracked are completely
digested by horses, mules and cattle.
In repeated tests with the algaroba bean meal, just referred
to, it was found desirable to adopt the suggestion made by this
Station as to the advantage of a minute spray of water to pre-
vent the sugary material from adhering to the roller of the mill.
After this device was adopted, no tendency was shown for the
sugar to adhere, and the roller remained perfectly clean. The
amount of water added in this process is altogether too small to
endanger the keeping qualities of the meal. The sugar in the
pods does not ferment unless considerable water is added. The

keeping quality of the meal js quite sufficient for the ordinary
demands of the trade. When kept in sacks or open containers it
retains its original odor and flavor, without change, for six or
eight months, and the meal is no more subject to the attacks of
insects than is any other grain feed.
On account of the prevalence of weevils, which attack and
destroy the seeds on the tree, or after the pods have fallen off,
or have been stored in bins, it was thought desirable to attempt
the introduction of parasites to control these weevils. The
Bureau of Entomology of the United States Department of
Agriculture very kindly consented to cooperate with this Sta-
tion, and Dr. W'. D. Hunter made several shipments of mesquite
beans containing parasitized weevils from Texas. The parasites
were bred from this material in large numbers by Mr. D. T.
Fullaway of this Station, and were subsequently liberated on
Maui and in several localities near Honolulu. It is too soon
yet to speak of the success of this introduction, but. if subsequent
investigation shows that the parasites have not become estab-
lished, further introductions from Texas will be made during the
coming season.
When it is considered that women and children pick up the
beans and sell them for from $7.50 to $10.00 a ton, it is appar-
ent that this feed has a much higher feeding value than its actual
market price, particularly when compared with the high price
which must be paid for imported feeds. The dairymen and
ranchmen recognize the importance of feeding large quanttities
of the beans picked up for storage, in order to prevent the great
loss which would occur if they were all left upon the ground.
Wherever the belts of algaroba timber are large it has been found
possible to maintain stock for a month or two of each season
without any other forage than algaroba beans. Some of these
belts, however, have been allowed to grow up much too dense.
Under such conditions the individual trees remain too small and
the yield of beans is less than would be the case if the trees were
thinned out, so as to give a chance for each tree to spread to its

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full limit. The thinning process would nearly, if not quite, :
for itself in most localities in the fuel which would there li,.i*
obtained. With the successful mill, which is now available for:;:
grinding algaroba, the feeding value of this already important
natural forage asset of the Territory will be greatly inea jl

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