True Hawaii

Kauai: A Gardener’s Paradise

5 Best Places to Stop and Smell the Flowers
1. McBryde Garden. Located in the south-shore Lawai Valley, McBryde has the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian flora, including the wiliwili, with branches that resemble sea coral, and the peculiar-looking alula, found only on Kauai.
2. Allerton Garden. Also in Lawai, this garden--once owned by a Hawaiian queen--is laid out in a series of “rooms,” such as the aptly named Palmetum, enclosed by native and exotic palms.
3. Limahuli Garden and Preserve. At the base of Mount Makana, Limahuli has agricultural terraces approximately 700 to 1,000 years old that ancient Hawaiians carved to grow taro.
4. Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens. On the north shore its 13 distinct gardens weave around bog, forest, meadow and beach. You might see breeching humpback whales offshore.
5. Iliau Nature Loop in Waimea Canyon. Imagine the Grand Canyon carpeted in green. Look for yellow-blooming iliau; it flowers once, then dies.

Tiny Bubbles
Soap fit for a king. Malie Kauai’s luxe cream bar is made from the oils of palm kerns, coconuts, macadamia and kukui nuts. (Kukuis are crafted into leis and were once worn by Hawaiian royalty.) Malie Kauai combines indigenous ingredients with Hawaiian “Hydrosols” (liquids distilled from flowers that contain healing benefits and aromatherapy fragrances). Choose from the fragrances of coconut-vanilla, gardenia, pikake (jasmine), plumeria or coconut-pineapple. Four ounces for $12.

Wettest Place on Earth?
Kauai’s Mount Waialeale is often referred to as the wettest place on earth, but this extinct volcano in the center of the island takes a back seat to the town of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India. Still, it does get an average of 440 inches of yearly rainfall. The summit itself – 5,148 feet – is mostly barren; plant life thrives, however, in the crater. Folks have reached the summit, but that’s rare given the bramble of foliage and lack of discernible trails. But you can get a good look at Waialeale from the Kuilau Ridge Trail. The first mile offers an easy incline through forested hills before reaching a grove of picnic tables with views of the second-wettest spot on earth.

Killer Plants
Banana poka is an invasive weed that threatens Kauai’s native forests, but these pliable vines festooned with pink blossoms can be woven into lovely baskets. On May 27, the Kokee Natural History Museum hosts the Banana Poka RoundUp. West Kauai is cowboy country, and in that spirit, the festival includes bluegrass and Hawaiian music, a human crowing contest (in honor of the island’s wild chickens), basket-weaving workshops and displays of Kauai’s impressive flora. Workshop fee is $15. If you can’t make the poka roundup, the museum also leads Wonder Walks.

Hawaii has one of the highest concentrations of endemic plants anywhere – 90 percent of the approximately 1,200 native plants grow nowhere else on the planet and Kauai is the island chain’s showcase.

Insider Tip
Practical knowledge of Kauai’s botany comes in handy: Ti is said to reduce fevers, while ginger reputedly fights nausea; the kukui nut is an effective laxative; and the liquid from a beach-naupaka leaf also makes a good lens defogger, says David Lorence, director of science at Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Published: 29 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 1 Apr 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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