Monday, March 24, 2014

Doing It Island Style, Part 2: Na 'Āina Ka Botanical Gardens

About five hours before boarding the plane back to Seattle, we made an impromptu decision to tour the gardens of Na 'Āina Kai.  This huge botanical garden and hardwood tree farm, formerly a private estate, spans 240 acres on the northeast coast of Kauai.


To begin our tour, we loaded onto a golf cart and drove to a meadow flanked by various species of acacia, albezia and eucalyptus trees.

Albezia (aka mimosa)
I noticed a popular way to grow orchids in Hawaii is to tie one to the trunk of a tree with green horticultural tape until it anchors its roots around the tree.  In this area however, both orchids and staghorn ferns grow naturally on the trees and rocks.  In the picture below, you can see a group of small orchid seedlings just starting to grow.

Here is a single naturalized staghorn fern growing on the side of a tree.

A growing family of staghorn fern sporelings growing on the side of a rock completely on their own ambition.  No green horticultural tape in sight.

Ficus benjamina, one of the most common houseplants in the US, grows into an enormous tree in the tropics.

Numerous bronze statues blend into the surroundings around the garden, adding an imaginative touch to the garden.

A very rare sight in Hawaii: deciduosity.

A lone starfruit waiting to be eaten.

Averrhoa carambola
This next plant had me drooling.  Our entire tour group walked right past it without giving it a second glance.  I had to stop the tour and ask our guide what it was.  He called it a Hale Koa plant.  I took note, figuring that would be enough to go on to find its real name when I got back home.  After days and days of fruitless internet searches, I had an a-ha moment: I'll just e-mail them and ask what it is!  As it turns out, it's not a Hale Koa plant at all.  I don't even think there is such a thing.

Does this look familiar all you hardy schefflera connoisseurs out there?

Yes, it's indeed some kind of schefflera.  The folks at the garden replied back and said they grew it from seed, but they aren't quite sure what it is either.  It might be a cross between Schefflera taiwaniana (I can definitely see that) and Plerandra elegantissima (formerly Schefflera elegantissima).  If that is the case, it would likely have some hardiness to it since S. taiwaniana can handle subfreezing temperatures.  Whatever it is, it's beautiful.

Considering the wettest place on earth is only about 10 miles away, they had an impressive desert area.

The mansion.

This was pretty funny.  Here is the front entrance to the house.  They must have had some gripe against tall people because this vine (Mucuna bennettii aka Red Jade Vine) is trimmed to about four feet off the ground.  Either that or Willy Wonka lived here.

There were only a few blooms when we were there but apparently this vine can become almost completely covered in flowers when it's at it's peak.

Mucuna bennettii
We weren't allowed to go swimming.

If I were to live in Hawaii and build a swimming pool, it would look something like this.

That does if for Part 2.  I'll be doing a few more posts on Hawaii - there's just so much to cover!!


  1. That last shot is just dreamy but the one that will stay with me for awhile is that schefflera, WOW!

    1. It was amazing. I will have to ask them if the seeds are viable.

  2. That schefflera, indeed! Amazing! And I have a new respect for Ficus benjamina after seeing your picture of that beautiful specimen.

    1. Definitely way better than trapped in a pot collecting dust.

  3. Schefflera albidobracteata, methinks.