Sunday, November 19, 2023

Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu

Lyon Arboretum of the University of Hawaii at Manoa provides a look at Honolulu quite different from the beaches. 

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii
View of Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

Each of the Hawaiian Islands is complex, with wet sides and dry sides, seacoasts to thick forests, and on some islands, to high elevation environments. The island with Honolulu, Oahu, is no exception. One easy way to experience that Oahu is not all beaches is at the Lyon Arboretum. A plant collection of the University of Hawaii, the Lyon Arboretum rises from about 450' to 1,850' elevation. The drive from the beach takes you up and up and up, leaving you in the parking lot to walk up some more, and still be near the lowest point of the Arboretum. Above Honolulu are steep, forested hills, some inhabited, some too steep. (Take a close look at a satellite image of Honolulu).

Hills of Honolulu
Hills of Honolulu from Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum has a vast collection of rare and common tropical plants. 

Lyon Arboretum view

There is a collection of Hawaiian natives, for example this plumbago, 'ilie'e, Plumbago zeylandica (Plumbaginaceae). Wouldn't it be a lovely native plant to grow, if you were in Hawaii growing local plants?
Ilie'e, Plumbago zeylandica
Ilie'e, Plumbago zeylandica

 Or this young tree of the iconic Hawaiian 'ohi'a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha, myrtle family, Myrtaceae)

'ohi'a lehua, Metrosideros polymorpha
'ohi'a lehua, Metrosideros polymorpha

My photo doesn't do ohia lehua justice. Here is a branch with flowers, from an April trip. 

'ohi'a lehua, Metrosideros polymorpha
'ohi'a lehua flowers

Lyon Arboretum has a collection of "canoe plants," the species that Polynesians brought to Hawaii when they colonized it. One was taro, Colocasia esculenta, known in Hawaiian as kalo

kalo, Colocasia esculenta, taro
kalo, Colocasia esculenta

Another canoe plant was the sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, 'ulaa.

'ulaa, Ipomoea batatas, sweet potatoes

There were also collections of non-Hawaiian plants. This stand of handsome bromeliads, for example, was part of a garden featuring all kinds of bromeliads, members of the plant family Bromeliaceae, from Hawaii and all over the world.


I, however, made little attempt to work through the various collections and make it a study-day. Most plants were well-labeled, so I could have been more scholarly, but the air was warm, the sun bright, and the plants fragrant. I just enjoyed the walk and the views.

Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu

Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu, HI

Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu, HI

Lyon Arboretum vista

Comments and corrections welcome.

Note: In English, foreign words are put in italics. Scientific names of plants are considered to be in Latin, so are italicized. Hawaiian words would be italicized. But what of words from Hawaiian that are used as common names in English, such as ohia lehua? I decided those were English words and didn't italicize them. 


Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist

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