Saturday, January 31, 2015

McBryde Botanical Gardens & Preserve, Kauai

On a recent trip I had the amazing experience of visiting the beautiful MyBryde Botanical Gardens and Preserve located in the historical Lāwa`i Valley on the south shore of Kauai.  McBryde Garden has become the home to the largest collection of native Hawaiian flora in existence.  Most of these plants are found only in Hawaii, and many are threatened, endangered, or even extinct in the wild.  McBryde is the home of the National Tropical Botanical Garden's Conservation Program housing major research and education facilities and its mission is to discover, study, and preserve the native plants of Hawaii and educate the public through programs, lectures, publications and tours of the gardens.  

Welcome to McBryde Garden & Preserve
McBryde Rainforest
The land now occupied by the McBryde Garden lies in the southern part of the island extending along the Lāwa‘i Stream from the Kapalaoa Range to Lāwa‘i Bay. The valley is deep and wide, framed by majestic cliffs that can be seen along both sides. Ancient artifacts including remnants of habitation deposits, agricultural terraces, stone walls, and trails are found along the gardens, indications of the early Polynesians who inhabited the area.  The rainforest is magnificent and lush with tropical vegetation.

McBryde Rainforest

In the rainforests members of the Palm family provided early inhabitants with food, oil, fiber, and building materials.  McBryde Garden fosters a collection of 23 species of Pritchardia (fan palm) that are native to the Hawaiian Islands, including Pritchardia limahuliensis, which is known only to Kauai.
Noni-Morinda citrifolia (Indian Mulberry)
Noni (Morinda citrifolia) known as Indian mulberry, was introduced by the Polynesians over a thousand years ago and used for medicinal purposes and for dye.  It was one of 30 species of plants brought over by early settlers in their canoes to help sustain life. The various species of plants are found in McBryde's "Canoe Garden".

Gardenia carinata
Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis)
 Banyan are actually figs and known for their huge aerial roots that grow outward from the base of the tree.  By me standing aside the tree you can get a sense of the true size of these roots.

Lipstick Palm Tree (Scientific name Cyrtostachys renda)
Cycad Encephalartos Cone
Cycads are ancient plants that date back more than 300 million years ago.  The cones seen here are produced by the male plant and can grow up to several feet in length! Below is one of the most beautiful blooms I have ever seen.  It was deep into the rainforest so I used my zoom to get a closer glimpse.  The feathery flower was mostly white with pink least six inches in height and breathtaking!

Alpinia purpurata 'Jungle Queen' (Zingiberaceae)-Ginger
Platycerium (Giant Staghorn Fern)
Platycerium (Staghorn Fern) can be found growing as epiphytes all around McBryde Gardens and can be several feet diameter as the magnificent one seen here.  They are known to be seen attached to monkey pod trees in particular, but also on masses of hanging aerial roots or on stumps low to the ground.  I have seen these unusual plants in greenhouses but this was a first seeing them in the wild in an actual rainforest!

Giant Philodendron
 Alocasia macrorrhiza (Giant Elephant Ear)
Angel Trumpet
White-rumped Shama
The White-rumped Shama was Introduced to Kauai in 1931 in an effort to supplement the native fauna on the island.  I was thrilled to spot this beautiful tropical bird in the rainforest of McBryde perched on a branch overhead.

Tillandsia Cyanea (Pink Quill Bromeliad)
Ixora coccinea (Jungle Geranium)
 Aechmea bromeliad

Tropical blooms such as Bromeliad and Ixora can be observed growing throughout the forest floor while spanish moss cascades from the canopy of trees above.

Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss)
Mussaenda philippica 'Queen Sirikit' 
Hawaiian Canoe Garden Mai'a Banana Musa acuminata
In Hawaii this banana tree is known as the Mai'a 'Oa'.   It has cultural and folk medicinal significance as it was the only seeded banana originally introduced to the islands.

 Pandanus tectorius (Hala) Native to Hawaii

Pandanus tectorius (Hala in Hawaiian) is native to  Kauai. Hala trees are of cultural, health, and economic importance in the islands.  The fruit and roots are edible but the leaves, which are the most useful part of the plant, are woven into mats, thatch, sails, baskets, hats, and local fans.

Pritchardia hillebrandi (Arecaceae)

Brighamia insignis (Ōlulu or Alula) Endangered 

Alula (Brighamia insignis), a member of the Campanulaceae or Bellflower family is an endangered species which is endemic to the islands of Kauai and Niihau and protected in the McBryde Garden.  With only a single plant known in the wild, propagation of Alula has been one of the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s great accomplishments. Another success story has been the propagation of Munroidendron racemosum, a beautiful small tree in the Araliaceae or Ginseng family. Extremely rare and endangered, Munroidendron is endemic to Kaua‘i and is found in the wild only in a very few locations.

Ficus dammaropsis (Moraceae)-Dinner Plate Fig

Thanks to the folks at National Tropical Botanical Garden who helped me to identify this plant, I found out the name of this unusual looking fruit.  At first I thought it looked somewhat like an artichoke so I was surprised to find out that it is 'Ficus dammaropsis', an unusual fig known as "Dinner Plate Fig".  This species produces a multiple fruit and the female flowers are pollinated only by the wasp Ceratosolen abnormis. The wasp enters to lay her eggs and in doing so she pollinates the female flowers. Neither fig nor the wasp can survive without this relationship.

Crinum pedunculatum (Queen Emma Spider Lily)
Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa)

It took some research to find the name of this unusual bird. It is the Dusky Moorhen, a member of the Rallidae family which is an inhabitant of land and water, and often the first species to occupy islands. I had the rare experience of viewing this one in McBryde .

Heliconia Rostrata (Lobster Claw)

Heliconias belong to the botanical order Zingiberales. They are related to the families that include Gingers, Bananas (Musaceae), Cannas, and Birds of Paradise. 'Awapuhi', or shampoo ginger, was introduced by the Polynesians and used as a shampoo and conditioner for the hair. Many of the Heliconias and their relatives display beautiful ornamental flowers that that are much admired by visitors and are economically important to Hawaii’s cut flower industry. 

Alpinia purpurata ‘Eileen McDonald’ (Zingiberaceae)
 'Hale'  (Hawaiian Hut)

As the path wraps around toward the end of the tour this Hale (Hawaiian hut) can be viewed.  As part of the McBryde restoration project this original thatched Hawaiian hut, 'Hale' was restored back to its original state.  Hale were used as a general meeting place by early Polynesians.

Bio Diversity Trail
Bio Diversity Trail

This newly added Bio Diversity Trail was created in 2014 to educate the public on the fragility of our planet and how the diversity of plants changes over time.  It takes visitors throughout millions of years from 300 million years ago to the present, shows how changing environmental conditions can alter the biodiversity of the planet, and continues National Tropical Botanical Garden's efforts to preserve the native flora of Hawaii.
Osmoxylon talaudense Philipson (Araliaceae)
Lotus Pond Water Lily
Carambola (Star Fruit)

We ended the day with an introduction to Star Fruit, a sweet tasting fruit with distinctive ridges running down its sides resembling a star, hence its name. The entire fruit is edible, usually eaten out of hand, and may be made into relishes, preserves, and juice drinks.

National Botanical Garden Tours

McBryde is one of five National Tropical Botanical Gardens covering 
over 2000 acres in Hawaii and Florida. We took the self guided tour and met up with a group of fellow gardening enthusiasts, explored the gardens together, learning new things and sharing our prior knowledge.  This was an experience of a lifetime and writing this post has brought back so many wonderful memories and has encouraged me to even further research the various flora and fauna I had experienced. After revisiting the hundreds of photographs I had taken of the gardens I aimed at selecting the few that would truly capture the essence of this wonderful paradise.  I hope you enjoyed the tour of McBryde Gardens!

For more information, you can visit National Tropical Botanical Gardens-McBryde 

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Linking with Today's FlowersFloral Fridays, Mosaic Monday at Lavender Cottage, Creative Country Mom's Tuesday Garden Party and Our World Tuesday.

Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening, Copyright 2015. All rights reserved


  1. Dear Lee, thanks for this great and informative post about the McBryde Botanical Gardens and Preserve! I loved seeing all the tropical plants, the XXL size of many and their lushness is just very fascinating to me. I am ready to take a plane to Kauii tomorrow, now!
    Happy Gardening to you as well!
    Warm regards,

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this Christina. I really wanted to preserve the memory and I keep going back to look at the photos during these cold and dreary months. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! Happy weekend!

  2. Oh Lee this is just stunning as are your pictures. We have long wanted to visit Hawaii and especially Kauai and this goes in my travel folder as a must see. Thanks for making February a brighter month with this post!

    1. My pleasure Donna and I am glad you enjoyed the gardens! They are truly a magical place that I wanted to share. Thank you for visiting and for your kind words.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful tour. We visited Kauai years ago, and I still remember the fabulous flowers we encountered there. The Dinner Plate Fig is amazing, as is its relationship with the special wasp: another illustration of the interconnectedness of life on our planet.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the visit Deb. The fig is so unusual looking...almost like an artichoke. There were so many rare and unusual tropical plants in these gardens and I just couldn't get enough! I also enjoyed learning about the fascinating relationships that go on there.

  4. How exciting to see a botanical garden of this magnitude. I have wanted to try star fruit but by the time they're in the Canadian grocery store I think they're pretty old and not so appealing.
    Is that a little spoof on Adam and Eve with the giant leaf? LOL
    Thank you for sharing all these wonderful plants at Mosaic Monday Lee.

    1. Thank you for hosting Judith! The Star Fruit is actually quite tasty but it does need to be fresh, and this was fresh right off the tree! I enjoyed you comment on Adam and Eve...too funny!

  5. Incredible post Lee! We have often said that the next time we go to HI we will have to visit Kauai. Your photos are spectacular. I am going to go through them again.

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed the photos Denise. There are three botanical gardens on Kauai that all belong to the National Tropical Botanical Garden Association...each one is magnificent!

  6. Beautiful photos, Lee! Lucky you to be visiting Hawaii this time of year. I love all the tropical growth of Hawaii. That's my favorite part of a visit to Hawaii. I think my favorites are the anthuriums and the banyan trees. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    1. Hi Susan. I would sure like to be back there now with all this winter cold! The gardens are really so breathtaking and memorable so I just keep re-living them through my photographs. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  7. Wow! Magnificent photos of these beautiful gardens. Excellent flower shots.
    Thank you for joining Floral Friday Fotos and I hope to see more of your work in the weeks to come.

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting Nick and for hosting Floral Friday Fotos. I always enjoy visiting your wonderful meme, especially now when its 14 degrees outside!

  8. WoW, what an amazing place, you photographed it beautifully. We visit longwood gardens in pa., it has a similar layout with a focus on plants and flowers in our area. I wonder if you have ever been?

    The purple water lily is so similar to my blog header photo!! Really beautiful images!!

    1. I have never been to Longwood Gardens but have heard and read so much about them that I would love to get there someday. Maybe there's a road trip in the future! Thanks for visiting!

  9. So tropical! Not just beautiful, that's so interesting! No doubt to follow your blog. thank for sharing.

    1. Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the gardens!


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!


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