Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Doing it Island Style, Part 1: Princeville Botanical Gardens

The wonders of modern technology.  In five short hours you can leave the cold, wet, dark, miserable Seattle winter weather and go somewhere completely superior.  That's exactly what I did last month - the superior place being Hawaii.  We stayed on the island of Kauai, also known as the garden island since it is geologically the oldest and therefore the most ecologically diverse.  Apparently they don't take security too seriously either judging from the lack of windows in the airport corridor:

During our week in paradise, we visited two botanical gardens.  The first one was just outside of Hanalei (no relation to Puff the Magic Dragon by the way) named Princeville Botanical Gardens.  It was planted fairly recently in 2001 but easily looks like it has been there twice as long.

Like any respectable botanical garden, a river runs through it.
Throughout the three-hour guided tour, samples were placed in bags next to selected fruit trees for us to try.  Below, our tour guide is opening one of the bags.  Inside were things like apple bananas, orange slices, cocoa nibs, longan (dragon eye fruit), and other odd tropical fruit.

Hawaiian horticulture is slightly confusing.  There are three names for every plant: the common name, the botanical name, and the Hawaiian name.  The screw pine (Pandanus tectorius), for example, in the picture above is known by the Hawaiians as a Hala tree.  Plants that were originally introduced by the Polynesians hundreds of years ago are called canoe plants (since they came over in canoes) but these are often considered Hawaiian natives which they really are not (Cordyline fruticosa or Ti plant is an example).

Euphorbia punicea (Flame of Jamaica)
It would sure be nice to live in a place that never drops below 50 degrees.  No hardiness zones to worry about.  The bottlebrushes grow into trees and bloom in the middle of winter.

Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis)
The fluorescent orange rhododendrons were pretty amazing too.

Speaking of orange, look at this orange tree!  I should have asked what they used to fertilize it.

Hoffmannia arborescens was new to me.  I thought it might be a type of fig but it's actually in the coffee/gardenia family.

Hoffmannia arborescens (relative of the Taffeta plant)
Fossilized pathways.

Aerial palm tree roots.

This area is going to become part the garden in the future.  They are currently in the process of clearing out all the invasive vegetation.

This fishtail palm (Caryota gigas) blew my mind.  It's hard to grasp the size of it from the picture.  The dead frond that is falling off was about 20 feet wide by 40 feet long!  Oh, and it's only eight years old.

Solandra maxima or Cup of Gold looks like a lily but is actually in the nightshade (tomato) family.  It has a similar smell to Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia).

A small Baobab tree.  It will put on a bit more bulk when it reaches maturity in 2,000 years.

Heliconias were everywhere.  

Another one that looked like a herd of giant caterpillars.

This is what a poinsettia looks like when it's not in the process of dying on the mantle in the living room during Christmas.

Halfway through the tour, they had a chocolate tasting.  They make their own chocolate from the trees growing in the garden.

Here is one of their chocolate trees.

Theobroma cacao aka chocolate tree
A vanilla orchid unfortunately not in bloom. 

Vanilla planifolia
  A nutmeg tree unfortunately not in nut.

Monodora myristica aka African nutmeg
Pride of Burma - the floral equivelant of a chandelier.

Pride of Burma (Amherstia nobilis)
Bromeliads growing happily in a rockery.

I could go on but I have to end at some point so that does it for Part 1.  Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will travel to the gardens of Na 'Āina Kai.

A desert rose (Adenium obesum) and giant aloe just out of bloom.


  1. Thanks for sharing those fab images Justin, the place looks amazing and hoping to visit someday soon.

    1. I hope you can. It's a great way to spend a week in the middle of winter.

  2. Great photos and yes, it certainly beats the PNW in February. I've never been to Hawaii but Andrew bought me a guide book on their botanical gardens a couple of years ago. Hopefully I'll be able to use it someday!

    1. If you go I'd say the two gardens I visited (Princeville & Na Aina Kai) are a requirement!

  3. Beautiful images, the name of the Schefflera is Schefflera albidobracteata 'Starshine'. Love your blog. I have that plant for many years, can see my photos at