SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Eleven members of the Fort Shafter Hui, or all ranks spouse club took part in a tour of the Schofield Barracks U.S. Army seed bank, Jan. 23.
“The seed bank is one of the hidden gems that the Army does,” said Amy Phillips, member of the Fort Shafter Hui. “It’s very interesting to see how this program contributes to maintaining the Hawaiian ecology and biodiversity.”
The seed bank is responsible for maintaining seed collections for Army training lands for growing, restoration and as a source for genetic back-up and works with more than 100 endangered plant species across Army lands on Hawaii Island and Oahu. The bank currently has approximately 29 million seeds and can link specific seeds or plantings back to the “mother” of the seeds, which enables rebuilding and tracking of precise populations.
“The Schofield Barracks Seed Bank is the only seed bank in the Department of Defense,” said Hilary (Kapua) Kawelo, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii’s natural resources manager. Kawelo has been part of the Army’s Natural Resource Program since 1995.
Spouses toured the growing laboratory, greenhouses and gardens as part of the visit. Many spouses shared their personal experiences around the islands and asked related questions regarding propagation, fire recovery, endangered and invasive species and identification.
“We have a co-op agreement with the University of Hawaii; their program fits into what we do seamlessly,” Kawelo said. The co-op agreement with (the University of Hawaii) on Oahu has been in existence since 1997, said Kawelo.
Kawelo described how the seed bank partnered with the State of Hawaii to repopulate the state flower, the yellow hibiscus or maohauhele, on the island of Molokai. The state flower is threatened by both invasive grasses and the wildfire that those grasses carry across the islands, according to Kawelo.
“Managing habitat equals ensuring protection of native species,” Kawelo said.
The Fort Shafter Hui is an all-volunteer organization made up of spouses, service members and civilians, among the south region of Oahu, which includes Aliamanu Military Reservation, Camp Smith, Fort Shafter and Tripler Army Medical Center. The Explore sub-group meets often to get out, explore and learn about Oahu.