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Hawaii's wild gardens.

WILD GARDENS, PLANTED BY NATURE on wild lands or by scientists in jungly botanical gardens, reveal Hawaii's tropical plant treasures in inspirational surroundings for hikers, photographers, and nature lovers.

But they also offer a glimpse of the state's most rapidly dwindling resource: its unique and diverse native plants. Invaded by introduced animals and weeds, and by development, these living links to Hawaii's ancient past are disappearing. Their preservation has emerged as one of the most pressing environmental issues of the '90s, both in and beyond the Islands.

On the following pages, you can read about Hawaii's native plant communities and what's being done to save them--from establishment of protected reserves to hand-pollination of plants by scientists who must rappel down cliff faces to reach them.

We suggest wild gardens to visit for a look at plants from Hawaii (and elsewhere in the tropical world)--all amid spectacular settings.

Scientists have found that the best way to save rate plants is to save the habitats that shaped them. And in Hawaii, many organizations are trying to do just that.

The state of Hawaii's Natural Area Reserves System currently protects 19 sites on five islands--more than 109,000 acres of the state's most spectacular lands. And The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii helps protect upward of 48,000 acres of land and manages 11 preserves on five islands. Many protected areas are inaccessible, but some are relatively easy to reach. Here are two for rewarding day trips.



Kaena Point has one of the few coastlines in Hawaii where native plants still flourish. "It's our best example of a successfully recovered native ecosystem," says Dr. Charles Lamoureux, University of Hawaii botanist. But the native plants have prevailed only after struggle: Kaena Point was long used by off-road vehicles that gouged the wind-shaped dunes; it started recovering only after it was closed to vehicles four years ago.

Now these 12 acres of dunes again are home to green naupaka and other native plants, bright green against a backdrop of lofty sea cliffs. Laysan albatross returned last year to nest in thickets along the dunes, and Hawaiian monk seals have been spotted basking on the rocky shoreline. During the winter, humpback whales often ply the waters off the point.

It's a 45-mile drive from Waikiki, then about a 2 1/2-mile walk to the point, where a lighthouse stands. During winter, high surf and strong currents make conditions hazardous, so stay out of the water. Carry drinking water with you, and protect yourself from sun with a hat and sun screen.

To reach Kaena Point's north shore, take Interstates H1 and H2 to Wahiawa, then State Highways 99 and 803 north and State 930 west through Waialua to the highway's end; park here. For the west access, take Interstate H1 to its end at Farrington Highway; go 13 miles northwest to Makaha, then 7 miles to the road's end and a parking area. Lock your car and carry valuables with you. There are no rest rooms inside the reserve; the closest facilities are at Mokuleia and Keawaula (Yokohama Bay) beach parks.



This 5,230-acre preserve, straddling a deep ravine on Haleakala's upper slopes, is sanctuary to hundreds of native plants as well as to 12 Hawaiian bird species, including 7 endangered ones.

From the entrance, a 1 1/2-mile trail leads through non-native pines and open shrubland, and then down the ravine's steep side through lush forest. Where the trail levels off, look up: you'll see bronzy 'ama'u (Sadleria) ferns embroidering steep slopes on each side, and 'ohi'a lehua trees rising above them, their canopies often garlanded with tufts of red, brush-like flowers. You might even glimpse a curve-billed 'i'iwi (Hawaiian honeycreeper) flitting through the trees in a flash of brillian red. It's a steep climb up the ravine's other side.

Waikamoi is accessible on guided hikes only; see details on page 66. The 1/4-mile Hosmer Grove Nature Trail in Haleakala National Park, which adjoins the preserve, is a more easily accessible place to see native plants. Pick up a map and brochure at park headquarters (open 7:30 to 4 daily), about a mile insife the park entrance.

To get to the national park, allow at least 1 1/2 hours from Kaanapali or Wailea resorts. Take State 37 up the mountain to 377; turn left. Go left again on State 378 and follow signs for Haleakala National Park. Turn left beyond the park entrance (entry, $3 per vehicle) to the Hosmer Grove parking lot.



Like Noah's ark, Hawaii's botanical gardens nurture reserve populations of species that are endangered in the wild. They also include tropical from other parts of the world. We suggest 10 gardens in some of the Islands' most scenic areas. Each offers pleasant hiking, grand vistas, and close-up looks at unique plants. For addresses, hours, and directions, see page 66.

HAWAII: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Edging Onomea Bay, on a 4-mile scenic route 7 miles north of Hilo, this garden displays mostly introduced tropicals such as orchids and gingers. But the new Cook Pine Trail (less than 1/4 mile long) leads past a small collection of native plants such as Hibiscus waimeae and Pritchardia.

KAUAI: National Tropical Botanical Garden. A verdant valley near Poipu cradles this 186-acre collection. Here, in the nation's only congressionally chartered tropical botanical garden, the magnificent plantings include the world's largest collection of Hawaiian native plants. Visitors tour in 12-passenger vans, which stop frequently for close-up viewing. In a native plant garden adjacent to the visitor center, you'll see such rarities as yellow-flowered Hawaiian cotton (Gossypium tomentosum).

MAUI: Kahanu Gardens. Pictured on our cover, this branch of the National Tropical Botanical Garden sprawls over 126 acres of pandanus-fringed black lava on Maui's eastern shore. It features native plants and plants introduced from Polynesia. It also embraces remains of the ancient Piilanihale Heiau, a national historic landmark. From the entrance, drive past breadfruit trees and grassy fields fringed with coconut trees to the visitor center. Park here; plant displays are to the left.

Keanae Arboretum. A 1/4-mile trail edges the bottom of this 6-acre garden in a moist valley off the Hana Highway (about halfway between Kahului and Hana). On display are a few labeled native plants such as Pritchardia and several Polynesian introductions such as banana and taro.

OAHU: Honolulu Botanical Gardens (four sites). Two border scenic wildland; the others are in urban area.

Foster Botanical Garden. At the gardens' headquarters in downtown Honolulu, a 20-acre expanse contains several of the state's oldest and largest imported tropical trees.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden. Tucked against Oahu's windward cliffs, this 400-acre garden (see page 64) hugs a 32-acre manmade lake and looks more like a scenic park than a botanical garden. It presents trees and shrubs from different regions of the tropical world, but easy, guided natural history hikes (2 to 3 1/2 miles round trip) identify some native plants among them. Opened in March 1982, it's the newest site in the Honolulu Botanical Gardens' system.

Wahiawa Botanical Garden. This cool, rain-forest habitat is in a 27-acre wooded gulch in Wahiawa, an old sugar town 13 miles northwest of Honolulu.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden. This garden occupies the dry, inner slopes and basin of Koko Crater on Oahu's eastern end. The 1 1/4-mile trail that skirts the crater's lower perimeter is relatively flat but rugged (wear good walking shoes). Among the tangle of dryland plants are summer-blooming wiliwili trees (Erythrina sandwicensis). It's a short hike from the entry gate to the crater entrance; along the way, you'll pass a grove of non-native plumerias, sweetly fragrant when midspring brings full bloom.

Lyon Arboretum. This 124-acre branch of the University of Hawaii, in upper Manoa Valley near Honolulu, is a treasure trove of exotics from around the world and some native Hawaiian plants. It offers the kind of scenery most visitors associate with a tropical paradise: towering palms, majestic trees with lush vines scrambling up their trunks, and flamboyant tropical blooms poking out of dense understory. Several species of native hibiscus grow in the Hawaiian section near Inspiration Point.

Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden. This 100-acre garden, in a coastal valley on Oahu's north shore, is part of Waimea Falls Park. You can stroll paths among a wide variety of plants (red labels identify rare and endangered ones). A display of dune plants is near the garden's front entrance, and several native hibiscus--including a large, white-flowered parent of today's hybrids--grow in the Hibiscus Evolution Garden. Toward the back of the garden, you can take in such colorful diversions as hula and cliff-diving shows.



On Molokai, botanists drop from a helicopter onto a remote mountain ridge to erect a fence around the last survivor of a species of lo'ulu palm (Pritchardia munroi); the fence will keep the palm's potential offspring from being devoured by wild goats.

Elsewhere on Molokai, suspended from a rope 1,500 feet above the Pacific, his knees pressed against a sheer, wind-buffeted cliff, Ken Wood (pictured on page 65) performs a task a natural pollinator--possibly a tiny moth--is no longer around to do. Fine paintbrush in hand, he pollinates the creamy flowers of a succulent-stemmed Brighamia rockii--one of fewer than 200 left in the wild--for later seed harvest and propagation at the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

By all-out efforts such as these, botanical gardens have stepped up programs to propagate and study Hawaiian plants. The ultimate goal is to return them to the wild where they might flourish on their own. But, cautions Michael Buck of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, "We don't want to send them on a suicide march back into the wild without first finding the right habitat. We need to understand why certain native plants no longer regenerate on their own."

Many people are joining the effort. Volunteers pull weeds from native habitats, and plant saplings of native trees in areas where whole forests of them have long since disappeared. Schoolchildren, environmental groups, governmental agencies, and garden clubs are also contributing to native habitat conservation.

Is saving endangered plants worth such extraordinary efforts? "Absolutely," says University of Hawaii botanist Dr. Charles Lamoureux. "Every time a species goes extinct, we've lost an option. Each species is a unique chemical factory, impossible to duplicate."

Other benefits are most tangible. Says a Honolulu businessman, "Hawaii's natural beauty is its best asset--reason enough to save native habitats."

A Maui hiker waxes philosophical: "If we can't save plant communities on these small islands, how can we hope to save the rest of the planet?"


Here are suggestions from Hawaii naturalists.

Respect quarantine laws. Exotic animals and plant material brought into the islands can have devastating effects on native habitats.

Be a careful hiker. If you plan to hike in several native plant habitats, also plan to wash the soles of your boots between hikes; many weeds have been spread by boots on trails. Pick sticky seeds from pant legs before going into protected areas. "Take nothing away but memories, leave nothing behind but footprints," advises naturalist Lorin Gill.

Volunteer. Groups such as the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy offer working hikes to eradicate weeds from a variety of locations (for more information, see listings on page 66).

Plant cultivated native plants. If you live in Hawaii, watch newspapers for notices of native plant giveaways sponsored by such groups as the Hawaii Plant Conservation Center of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Last year alone, this group gave to Hawaii residents 3,000 plants--all greenhouse-propagated and cultivated (not dug from the wild)--as part of its plant-of-the-month program.

Instructions for plant care are given out with the plants, and gardeners are asked to report successes and failures growing them. The object of the program is to increase the number of native plants in cultivation and to learn more about their needs.

To help you plan a botanical foray, here are addresses and hours for the gardens and guided hikes listed on previous pages. The area code for all is 808.


HAWAII: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, north of Hilo. Call 964-5233 for information and weather check. Open 8:30 to 4:30 daily except Christmas and New Year's Admission: $8 Hawaii residents, $12 nonresidents, free for ages 16 and under. Guided tours: 14-passenger vans run every 20 minutes from the visitor center.

KAUAI: National Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai, 332-7361. Open daily; admission and tour $15 per person. Reservations requested. Guided tours: at 9 and 1 daily; 2 1/2 hours.

MAUI: Kahanu Gardens, off Hana Highway about 3 miles northwest of Hana; 248-8912. Turn left on Ulaino Road at the gardens' sign and continue about 1 1/2 miles. Open 10 to 2 Tuesdays through Saturdays; admission $5 (free for NTBG members and ages under 12). Self-guided tours. Heavy rain can close gardens without notice.

Keance Arboretum, off Hana Highway, halfway between Kahului and Hana. Always open; free. Run by Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife; 243-5352.

OAHU: Honolulu Botanical Gardens. Foster Botanical Gardens, 50 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu 96817; 522-7060. Open 9 to 4 daily (except Christmas and New Year's); admission $1.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, at the end of Luluku Road in Kaneohe; 235-6636. Open 9 to 4 daily; free. Guided hikes: Saturdays at 10, Sundays at 1; reservations requested. Bring light rain gear, good walking shoes, mosquito repellant. Picnic facilities available.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden. From Honolulu, take Kalanianaole Highway (State 72) past Hanauma Bay; turn left on Kealahou Street and left again at the sign to stables. Park outside gate. Write to Honolulu Botanical Gardens (address below left) for information and map. Open 9 to 4 daily; free.

Wahiawa Botanical Garden, 1396 California Avenue in Wahiawa; 621-7321. Open 9 to 4 daily; free.

Lyon Arboretum, 3860 Manoa Road; 988-7378. Open 9 to 3 Mondays through Fridays, 9 to noon Saturdays; donation requested. Tours: self-guided hikes during regular hours; for guided tours, call number above for times, reservations.

Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden, 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa 96712;638-8511. Open 10 to 5:30 daily, including holidays; admission $14.95 ($7.95 for ages 6 through 12). Guided tours: 1-hour tram tours, walking tours.


Spaces on most guided hikes fill quickly; unless otherwise noted, call or write for information and reservations.

HAWAII: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 30 miles west of Hilo of State 11; 967-7311. Mondays, Wednessdays, and Fridays at 10, join easy, 1/4-mile guided hikes along the Thurston Lava Tube Trail among native ferns and trees. Subject to change; see schedules posted at the visitor centre (open 7:45 to 5 daily). Park entrance fee: $5 per vehicle.

MAUI: Waikamoi Preserve. The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, Maui Field Office, Box 1716, Makawao 96768; 572-7849. For guided hikes in this and other Conservancy preserves, the Conservancy requests donations of $5 for members, $15 for nonmembers. Limit 15 people. For information on memberships and hikes, write to The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, 1116 Smith St., Suite 201, Honolulu 96817; 537-4508.

Haleakala National Park, 572-9306, also offers guided hikes at Waikamoi on Monday and Thursday mornings at 9. Meet at the Hosmer Grove parking lot (see directions on page 61).

OAHU: Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve. For information on this and 18 other reserves, call the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 587-0166; or write to 1151 Punchbowl St., Honolulu 96813.


These three groups welcome Hawaii visitors on guided hikes among native plants. Friends groups of major botanical gardens, and some hotels, also offer natural history hikes.

Hawaii Nature Center, 2131 Makiki Heights Dr., Honolulu 96822. Saturday interpretive hikes to sites around Oahu, such as Kaena Point. Cost: $3 per person. Write for information, reservations.

Moanalua Gardens Foundation, 1352 Pineapple Place, Honolulu 96819; 839-5334. Naturalist-led walks, 4 miles round trip, in Kamanaui Valley at the Western edge of Honolulu on the second Saturday and fourth Sunday of each month. Limit: 35 people. Native plants such as ferns and ohi'a lehua ahihi grow toward the back of the valley.

Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, Box 2577, Honolulu 96803. Weekend work trips. Send $1 for schedule.


These books provide a good overview of native plants and ecosystems:

Alteration of Native Hawaiian Vegetation, by Linda Cuddihy and Charles Stone (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1990; $18).

Hawaii: The Island of Life, by Gavan Daws (The Nature Conservancy, Signature Publishing, Honolulu, 1988; $24.95).

Plants and Flowers of Hawai'i, by S.H. Sohmer and R. Gustafson (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1987; $15.95).
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:tropical plants
Author:Brenzel, Kathleen Norris
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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