Botanical Gardens at UH Hilo receive Betty Crocker Landscape Award

Date: Friday, August 24, 2012
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

The botanical gardens at theUniversity of Hawaiʻi at Hilo recently received the prestigious Award of Excellence for Community Gardens, the highest award given by the Scenic Hawaiʻi, Inc. and Betty Crocker Landscape Awards. The award is in addition to the previously received Outstanding Urban Forestry Achievement Award, the Kaulunani Urban Forestry Project Award, and the Hilo Outdoor Circle Beautification Award for Excellence in Landscaping.

The botanical gardens at UH Hilo were started in the 1980s by Professor Don Hemmes when, after hearing a lecture on the life cycle of a pine tree, a student in a freshman biology course asked, “What’s a pine tree? Where I live there aren’t such things as pine trees.” Hemmes got a shovel, and that was the beginning of the University of Hawai’i Botanical Gardens, which contain hundreds of plants that students might otherwise not experience unless they traveled outside of Hawaiʻi.

At the beginning of each semester, hundreds of students tour the gardens and learn about various groups of plants, how they reproduce, their distribution in various countries, and their general importance in the ecosystem.

“The gardens serve as a source of flowers and leaves to be shown in laboratories and rare plants to conduct experiments in pollination, seed development, and pest control,” Hemmes explained. “The gardens are visited as well by many plant lovers and garden enthusiasts in Hilo and visitors who are encouraged to tour the gardens.”

The UH Hilo Botanical Gardens consist of three separate areas that feature cycads, bromeliads, and palms. Currently, they include one of the largest collections of cycads in Hawai’i with over 100 species from 10 genera and several species yet to be named. One section of the garden has over 40 species of Zamia from Mexico and Central and South America and other sections contain rare and endangered Encephalartos and Stangeria from Africa, Macrozamia, Lepidozamia, and Bowenia from Australia, and Cycas from China and Viet Nam.

“The cycad gardens are complemented with colorful bromeliads, many of them rare hybrids produced by local bromeliad growers on Hawai’i Island,” Hemmes said. “The palm collection features gigantic specimens such as Pigafetta and Clinostigma from the South Pacific, Dypsis, Lemeuriophoenix, and Tahina from Madagascar and Arenga from the Philippines and South East Asia, as well as small species including Licuala from Thailand and Chamaedoria from South America.”

The Hawaiʻi Island Palm Society and the International Palm Society have toured the collection and featured selected species in their publications.

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