Saturday, November 23, 2013

Allerton & McBryde Botanical Gardens Kauai: Discovery Combination Tour-Paradise Found

Allerton Botanical Gardens Kauai
On a recent trip to the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands I had the wonderful experience of exploring the beautiful Allerton and McBryde Botanical Gardens while on the Discovery Combination Tour. Located on the south shore of Kauai in the wa'i Valley between the McBryde Garden and Pacific Ocean, Allerton Gardens encompass approximately 80 acres.  Allerton was the home of Hawaii's Queen Emma in the mid-19th century and was then passed to the McBryde family.  In the late 1930's, the grounds became the estate of Robert Allerton and his son, John Gregg Allerton. On August 19, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson granted a charter to the National Tropical Botanical Garden for the preservation of endangered native species.  The site is now maintained as a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of endangered tropical plants and protection of the world's diverse ecosystems. Encompassed in a world of rain forests, native fruits and spices, hidden waterfalls and Jurassic trees, Allerton and McBryde Gardens will continue to provide a tropical paradise for visitors of all ages. 
Allerton Botanical Gardens:  Paradise in Kauai

Often used as a set for movies and television series such as Gilligan's Island, Fantasy Island, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar, this picturesque postcard scene is like a fantasy.
Tour Bus

We took the Discovery 'Behind the Scenes' Tour that ventures into other areas of the garden such as its intensive care unit for endangered species and a hidden waterfall. Our tour guide was wonderful.  His intensive knowledge and sense of humor made the visit a memorable experience which we will remember forever. Allerton Gardens are on the top of our list as one of Kauai's main attractions!
Mango Tree
In 2003, NTBG began an ambitious restoration of an area known as Lāwa‘i-kai including the beach and adjacent coastal forest in the Allerton Garden. The project’s first goal was to remove invasive alien plants which had crowded out most native strand plants and had threatened the Hawaiian green sea turtle's (honu) nesting areas.  The goal was to create a vegetative barrier to alleviate damage from tropical storms such as the tsunami and two hurricanes that had struck the area previously and to create a stable habitat for a wide array of highly endangered native plants, after removal of alien invaders.  The landscape was developed through the study of fossil and historical records to replicate the type of environment that would have existed a millennium ago.
Alula Brighamia insignis Endangered Plant
Many of the plants, including rare palms, trees, and shrubs native to the island, now thrive in Allerton Gardens. The Alula is one of the garden's conservation successes.  Having lost its natural pollinator the species was near extinction. NTBG botanists traveled to steep cliffs to collect pollen and hand cross-pollinate wild plants to generate fruits and seeds for germination.
Tropical Rain forest
This rain forest and its species resemble the environment a millennium ago during the days of the first Polynesian inhabitants.
 Banyon Tree Aerial Roots
As we walked through the gardens we experienced unusual tropical palms with thick aerial prop roots... 
Palm Seeds
attractive red seeds produced from native palms... 
Cycad Cones

and giant prehistoric looking seed cones produced from native cycads.
Ixora (Jungle Geranium)

The island is also the home of many tropical flowers including Tropical Geranium 'Ixora' (above) and Torch Ginger 'Etlingera elatior' (below) which were two of my favorites.   Ixora displays clusters of beautiful orange, scarlet, yellow or red blooms at the ends of branches with leathery green leaves ranging in size from three to six inches in length.  Each cluster may contain up to 60 individual star-shaped flowers.
Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior).
This beautiful flower known as Torch Ginger can be seen throughout the island in shades of red and pink.  Although ginger is not native to Hawaii the plants in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) grow very well on the islands.  The red flowers are more visible but if you look carefully into the brush you may also get a glimpse of the pinks.  A much rarer white torch ginger can be found growing in the McBryde Garden above the 'Spice of Life trail'.
McBryde Waterfall
The McBryde Waterfall located at the border between the Allerton and McBryde gardens is a must see.  This waterfall was featured in the movie 'Pirates of the Carribean' and rightfully so.  It is a hidden away treasure in the gardens and its beauty is breathtaking.  While touring the gardens, our guide took us through the rain forest to see this marvel of nature. 
Crossing Bridge
A wooden bridge crosses over to the beach where we had the rare opportunity to view the nesting site of the endangered green sea turtle (honu), which is being protected by the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG).
Lagoon and Palms
Does this Look like a scene from Gilligan's Island?  The opening scene to the well known television series from the 1960's was filmed here.
Education on Plants
Here our tour guide discusses the various native plants and species preserved here in the gardens. 
 Pandanus tectorius (Hala Tree)
Above is the Hala tree, which is native to Hawaii. Several parts of the tree can be utilized, but in Hawaii the most common use of Hala are the leaves.The leaves of the Hala tree are woven into various objects such as mats, baskets, hats, canoe sails, and bags. The leaves were also once used to thatch houses and homes for animals.
Noni Morinda citrifolia (Indian Mulberry)

The Noni was one of the most important medicinal plants of the native Hawaiians although most of the medicinal uses were from other parts of the tree other than the fruit itself. The bark and roots of the Morinda bark produce dyes that can be used in making batik and dying cloth and the oil from the seed can be used as an anti-inflammatory.
The Hibiscus is the official state flower of the Hawaiian Islands and means "delicate beauty". In Hawaiian culture it communicates power and respect and is a symbol of old royalty. Traditionally, the flower is worn behind one ear, behind the left ear signifying that a woman is in a relationship and is uninterested in attracting a man, whereas tucking the blossom behind the right ear announces that a woman is available.
 (Crinum pedunculatum) aka Spider Lily

Scattered throughout Allerton Garden are clusters of Crinum pedunculatum, also known as spider lily. The purple variety of this plant was named after Queen Emma, who had an affection for the color purple; hence the name Queen Emma Lily. This unusual flower stands out with its long, spiral-like leaves in shades of purple and white and was used in the movie set of  "Avatar".
The Moreton Bay Fig (Jurassic Park Tree)
If you have ever seen the movie "Jurassic Park"  then you have noticed the very large prehistoric looking trees in many a scene.  These are the actual Moreton Bay Fig trees that were used on site for most of the filming.
The Moreton Bay Fig  (Jurassic Park)
I was able to get a picture standing by one of these magnificent and majestic trees so that you could get a feeling of the size of its roots.  I felt like I was back in Jurassic time and oh what a thrill! 
Pothos Plant
If this giant Pothos plant looks familiar to you it is probably a common houseplant in your area.  Invasive here in Hawaii it grows as a vine on native trees and poses quite a nuisance.   When the tour guide tested me as to what is was I couldn't believe the size of the leaves...jungle style!
Rain forest with Aerial Roots, Philodendron and Palm
 These aerial roots are amazing as they cascade downward like ropes from the tree tops.  Many of the rain forest plants produce these root extensions to take in more moisture.
Plumeria Flower
Plumeria is not native or Polynesian-introduced but it is one of the most well known and favorite trees in Hawaii.  Beautiful fragrant blooms range in color from bright white (most fragrant) to yellow, pink and red. Several beautiful Plumeria trees grow throughout the Allerton garden.
Lotus Pond

At the end of the tour we viewed the lotus pond with magnificent blooms that could take your breath away.  I was able to get this close-up of the flower showing the details of its beauty...just another day in paradise.
Lotus Flower

This was certainly an experience of a lifetime and I would recommend visiting these magnificent gardens to anyone.  I hope to return to Allerton and McBryde Gardens again someday, so for now it's just Aloha and A hui hou...until we meet again.

For more information visit Allerton Botanical Gardens

Visitors Center - 4425 Lawai Road, Poipu 96756

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening, Copyright 2013. All rights reserved


  1. How outstanding is this! I am blown away when I hear the lengths people will go to save a species. And the blooms here a gorgeous! I will definitely be putting this on my garden bucket list!!! Their passions to recreate and save the native gardens is evident in all they have done! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    1. Thank you for visiting. I was also blown away by these beautiful gardens and all the efforts they are going through to save the native species so I wanted to put the information out to my readers. I have never been in such a beautiful place all my life and hope to be able to go back there someday to revist. It was truly paradise!

  2. Wow, wow, wow. This was a dream trip to one gorgeous and very different place. Plants grow so big in climates such as this and when I traveled myself to islands, that is what amazed me, teeny houseplants grown to Jurassic Park size. I would love to visit there one day. I have seen figs in Costa Rica, but never one quite that large. Good to have the photo for scale.

    1. Thanks Donna. I figured the size of the tree would be easier to describe with some perspective. This was such a wonderful and magical place!

  3. Lee, you're luck to visit Hawaiian Islands and Allerton Botanical Gardens. I love your photos as waterfall, hibiscus, Fig Tree roots as prehistorical plants:)). Thank you for sharing your trip in a place where I could not never visit .
    Have a nice Monday!

    1. Hi Nadezda. I am glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. I often enjoy visiting gardens I have never seen online and had fun putting together the photos with the information I learned while there and by researching. Happy Monday to you too and thanks for visiting!

  4. What an amazing landscape and a trip of a life time for sure.

    1. It was Rosie. I didn't want to leave the paradise! I had been wanting to go back to Kauai for 31 years and to get there and finally see these gardens was amazing!

  5. What a lovely place and what terrific plants!! Isn't Mother Nature wonderful? Glad you had a chance to vacation in Hawaii and to see this gorgeous garden, Lee.

    1. Thank you Astrid. The whole island was one amazing botanical garden. Yes...Mother Nature is wonderful!

  6. Hawaii – just the word sounds exotic to me, what a beautiful place to visit and so many plants and flowers to see. Thanks for letting us tag along :-)

    1. Thank you for visiting Helene. I am glad you enjoyed the gardens!

  7. Thanks for taking along on your tour. It's funny, when I looked at your first photo I immediately thought of Jurassic Park and then I read your caption! What a magical place.

    1. Those trees were amazing. It was like being right in the movie Jurassic Park...magical indeed!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing these pictures. After looking at them I think you are really lucky to visit such a wonderful place. Loved spider lily photo the most.

    Andrew John

    1. Thanks for the visit Andrew and welcome! The whole visit was a dream come true. The 'Spider Lilies' were unlike anything I have even seen. The guide pointed out a scene in the movie Avatar when the flowers were shown falling out of the sky floating and spinning like pinwheels in the rain forest. It was amazing to see them in person.

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I enjoyed seeing the tropical plants from your trip and am always amazed at what we grow for houseplants growing naturally outdoors in other countries.

    1. Welcome! I wish I could get my houseplants to look like that... lots of humidity is definitely a requirement! It was amazing to see philodendron and pothos growing in the wild Jurassic size!


Thank you for visiting. I love reading your comments and knowing you have been here, and will try to reciprocate on your blog. If you have any questions I will try my very best to answer them. As always...HAPPY GARDENING!