A kipuka is a raised island of native forest and plants situated in the middle of a recent lava flow. Because of its elevation, a kipuka is spared burial and incineration. Hawaiians say a kipuka is an oasis saved from Pele’s embrace. The word is a variation of the Hawaiian word puka, which means “hole.” It can refer to an opening of blue sky among high clouds, or a calm in the middle of rough seas, or a safe time and space where one perceives things clearly. Kipukas also exist in New Mexico, in the El Malpais National Monument, and in the lava flows in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, but it is generally thought of as a Hawaiian term. The Kipuka Puaulu provides excellent habitat for the two species of butterflies native to Hawai‘i, the Kamehameha Lady and the Hawaiian Blue, or Blackburn’s Bluet.

Pattiann Rogers