Visiting the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
A photo gallery of some of the amazing plants at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, where indigenous tropical plants are grown alongside non-indigenous species.
During a recent trip to the Island of Hawaii, I was in constant awe of the wide variety and exuberance of the island’s plant life. The region’s tropical climate, described by Mark Twain as “the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world,” seemed to encourage almost any plant to take root, grow to gargantuan proportions and produce radiant blooms.
One of the best places to appreciate the island’s vegetation is at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, located a few minutes north of Hilo. There, the garden’s curators have generated spectacularly lush landscapes by packing together both indigenous tropical plants, like beach naupaka, and non-indigenous orchids, like Heliconia, and palms from Southeast Asia and Latin America. As microcosms of the tropical world, these vistas are impressive both when taken in as a whole and examined up close to appreciate just how diverse tropical plant life can be.
Bright, whimsical Brownea macrophylla comes from Panama and Colombia.
Delicate cat's whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus, a member of the mint family) are native to the Philippine Islands.
Chocolate ball ginger is one of the more than 300 species of ginger in Thailand.
The flowers of Naupaka scaevola, a plant with origins in the tropical Pacific, are called "half-flowers" in Hawaii. According to a Hawaiian creation story, these flowers embody the spirit of a young Hawaiian man who resisted the affections of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, because he was in love with another woman in his village. To prevent the wrath of Pele on the young man, the other gods turned the man and his lover into two halves of a flower, with one half of the flower blooming in the mountains of Hawaii and one half blooming on the beach. (In reality, the same flower grows on both the mountains and on the beach).
Little club moss (Selaginella selaginoides) is native to the tropical zones of Asia and Africa.
Native to Guyana, Helinconia nickeriensis produces impressively long ropes of flowers.
A spider lily, (Lycoris albiflora), native to tropical Asia, grows along the garden's bay shoreline.
Giant white shell ginger from northern Thailand has a hard stalk that resembles bamboo. On the lower level, we have Rose of Siam, Etlingera corneri, another type of ginger. Thanks to Bria Designs who helped us identify this plant on Facebook!
This Averrhoa carambola tree from Malaysia produces slightly tart, succulent star fruit.
Deep-red Stromanthe sanguinea is native to Brazil.
This vibrantly pink Tahitian ginger from the South Pacific Islands is a natural mutation of red ginger.
Clerodendrum paniculatum, native to tropical Asia, has multiple common names like "temple flower" and "pagoda flower" that describe its unique form.
Whaleback, a plant native to tropical Asia and Australia, is a type of amaryllis that produces bright yellow flowers in the summer.
This dwarf pineapple, a type of bromeliad native to Brazil, produces an adorable bloom about four inches in height.
A thicket of pineapples grows at a cafe and farm called What's Shakin', located right outside the botanical gardens. Explorers to the West Indies first documented the existence of the pinapple plant in the 15th and 16th centuries. Hundreds of years later, in the early 19th century, visitors to the Hawaiian islands would introduce what would become the state's hallmark crop to the settlers living there.