Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Visit to Paradise: Kauai's Flora and Fauna

Kauai Flora and Fauna
I'm going to start off this post with the word "Dream".  While temperatures have plummeted along with significant snowfall here in the northeast, I am sharing a recent trip to Kauai, a place of dreams where the imagination can go wild and magical experiences can occur around every corner.  As an avid gardener and designer I found myself to be in the ultimate paradise surrounded my a multitude of colorful and fragrant tropical blooms and magnificent foliage everywhere.  Come along for a visit!
Tunnel of Trees
On the southeast coast of Kauai along Maliuhi Road is the beautiful Tunnel of Trees, a canopy consisting of five hundred Eucaloptus trees that were planted over one hundred years ago as gift to the community by Walter McBryde in 1911. The stunning canopy rises to over one hundred feet above and is the passageway to Kauai's south shore town of Poipu. It doesn't matter how many times you drive through this tunnel as the view continues to be just as breathtaking with every encounter.
Dream Tree
A lone tree stands along the side of the road on the same route. Each time my husband and I would pass by this location we would have the same conversation about how the tree reminded us of the tree in the opening scene of the 1998 movie "What Dreams May Come" and how Kauai was such a magical place.
To our amazement someone else had the same memory.  A sign with the word "Dream" has appeared and now hangs on that very tree. The sign points to the majestic mountains along the highway's east side and breathtaking view along the drive. If trying to describe paradise I couldn't think of a more perfect place and the sign hanging on that very tree just makes everything complete.
Kauai Rainbow
 On the same day right after discovering the sign, a light shower had passed overhead and a full rainbow appeared along the highway at that very moment...words cannot describe its beauty.
Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta)
There are many wonderful areas to visit on Kauai. Keahua Arboretum is one of the island’s hidden treasures. Located about six and a half miles from Wailua and a drive through some lush tropical rainforests and across Keahua Stream, the site is the home to these beautiful Rainbow Eucalyptus trees that display swirls of reds, blues, greens and golds all blended to complete an amazing pallette of color. The ride to find this hidden away place was quite the adventure and the trees that exist there are indeed a beautiful work of nature.
Waimea Canyon
A natural wonder is the Waimea Canyon, also known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." This 14 mile long and 3600 foot deep canyon formed by the collapse of the crater that formed Kauai and erosion from the Waimea River displays breathtaking views from its summit. The thrilling ride up to the top of the canyon is an ear popping experience with narrow winding roads and majestic views along the way. There are many lookout spots on the way up to the canyon but it is best to get to the top early in the morning (before 10:00 am) before the late morning fog rolls in and do the stops along the way down.
Wailua Falls Kauai
Wailua Falls are located on the south side of the Wailua River just north of Lihue.  This 173 high foot high double waterfall is known for its appearance in the opening credits of the long running 1970's television series Fantasy Island. If you look closely at the bottom of the falls you can see miniature rainbows forming from the mist below.
Bird of Paradise ( Strelitzia reginae)
Besides the beautiful views, Kauai is known for its diversity of beautiful tropical blooms and foliage. It wouldn't be the same without a sighting of the magnificent Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) which thrives on the island of Kauai.  Its vibrant blue, red and orange feather-like blooms are a sight to behold and this work of nature never ceases to amaze me. 
Tropical Hibiscus
Tropical Hibiscus is not native to the island but can be seen everywhere in an assortment of colors including hues of yellow, red and orange which are just breathtaking.  These beauties will survive for a number of years as houseplants at home but they thrive outdoors all year long in Kauai.
   Aechmea Orangeade Bromeliad
 Originally from Brazil, this fiery reddish-orange giant bromeliad can be seen growing in many places on the island. The vibrancy of their color is stunning!
  Ixora (Jungle Geranium)
Ixora, or Jungle Geranium displays delicate clusters of pink, orange, yellow or red blooms on evergreen foliage. As seen by the name, it resembles our northern geraniums in structure of the bloom. These can be found in the botanical gardens on the island and are planted as landscape plants at the resorts.
In the rainforests of Kauai ferns are abundant as well as giant philodendron plants.
Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant) 
This magnificent Monstera deliciosa has leaves spanning over three feet in length, unlike the more petite leaves we are used to seeing on houseplants in the north.  Unfortunately the philodendron population has grown to such an extent that it is now considered to be an invasive species in Kauai.
Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata)
Hawaiian Red Ginger is a beautiful plant with leaves over twelve inches in length and bright red flower bracts that sit atop of long stalks. Ginger blooms can be in shades of red, pink or white.
  Pandanus tectorius (Hala Tree)
The Hala Tree is an interesting plant native to the Pacific Islands that has various uses. It was brought along by early Polynesian settlers, as the fruit served as a food source, and it is also known to have medicinal uses including the use of the juice from the aerial roots to treat infection.
Plumeria is known for its beautiful and fragrant delicate flowers in the making of Hawaiian leis. I learned that there are different types of Plumeria, these which are blooming in the "cooler months", and another variety which becomes dormant during Kauai's winter season.
 Crinum Lily White
I photographed this Crinum Lily while visiting one of the rainforests on the island. From a distance I spotted its delicate pure white bloom peeking out from within large elongated foliage surrounding it.  It took some patience to get a good zoom to capture it, but I was on a mission, and could not let this one go by.
Crinum augustum (Queen Emma Spider Lily)
Here is Crimum (Queen Emma Spider Lily) with spider-like blooms on long reddish stalks above elongated green foliage.  This magnificent flower was named after the wife of King Kamehameha IV. I am in awe every time I admire this piece of nature's artwork.
Albizia Tree
Along many of the roadways on the east side of Kauai one gets the sense of traveling through the savanna.  These large open looking trees I have learned are called Albizia and are considered to be very invasive. These fast growing trees can quickly develop a canopy of over 150 feet in width.
Kauai Cows
There's a funny story behind these cows.  One day as my husband and I were riding along during our trip I asked him to stop by the side of the road so that I could take some photographs.  These cows were in the distance from where I was standing so I used my telephoto lens to capture some views.  The alpha male saw me and started coming forward.  As I called to them and continued clicking away the next thing I knew was that all the others had followed the leader. All were lined up in a flawless row for this once in a lifetime striking pose and photographer's dream come true!
   Egret and Naupaka (Scaevola sencea)
Other than cows, there is some interesting wildlife to be seen on the island. Down by the beaches these Egret are commonly seen.  I was able to get a capture of this one standing alongside a popular island beach plant called Naupaka (Scaevola sencea).
Kauai Rooster
Last but not least is the unofficial state bird of Kauai...the wild chicken. They were brought over by the early settlers and have no natural predators so they can be seen everywhere  on the island in an array of different species and colors. This striking male rooster was exceptionally colorful.
Puff the Magic Dragon Kauai Landmark
Since this is the island of dreams and fairy tales...this is the infamous "Puff the Magic Dragon" who lives by the sea in the land of...well you know.  If you find the maroon-red eye of the dragon to the center-right that is its head and the body goes to the left. The darker green area by the sea (Bay of Hanalei) are his feet.  Thanks to our friends who live in Kauai who pointed this out to us, Puff the Magic Dragon, is now very easy to see!
Kauai Flora and Fauna
 While gazing out at the winter wonderland beyond my back door I hold onto these memories of a beautiful paradise.  I hope that you enjoyed the journey.

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved


  1. I have never been to the islands! It looks so very inviting. What great photgraphs of flora and fauna. Now you have me dreaming!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting Laurin. It took me a long time to get there but it was worth the wait...plus it's always nice to "dream"!

  2. Very beautiful tour for us readers, Lee. The flowers and trees are a welcome relief to all the ice and snow this past week. Now we have rain. I am headed to Maiu again in a few weeks and Kauia looks so similar in many ways. You had an nice vacation.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the visit Donna. Kauai and Maui are very similar and Kauai is known as the "Garden Isle" because it is very lush. Enjoy your trip and bring back some sunshine!

    2. I leave next week and wish I had a view like you had from the mountain top. I want to take a helicopter ride just for a view like that.

    3. Have a fabulous trip and take lots of pictures!

  3. It is like heaven on Earth I tell you! Just such an amazing scene you captured in every photo! Thank you for sharing this beautiful inspiration with us!!! Nicole

    1. I figured everyone could use a little "tropical" right about now. Glad you enjoyed!

  4. Lee, you've been to Hawaii! It's a paradise! I loved the tunnel of trees and flowers of hibiscus and Strelitzia. Your photos are wonderful to see now when snow and cold is outside.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for commenting Nadezda. It is so snowy outdoors right now that it was nice to escape for a while and go through some photos. I know the temperatures are a lot colder where you are so stay warm. Spring arrives in two months!

  5. Thank you so much for this fascinating post. Thanks for sharing. I am old an could never visit or see this place. I have never seen a Eucalyptus tree and I have always used it in floral arrangements .
    I have 2 cousins on Long Island. My family was from Queens. yvonne

    1. You are very welcome Yvonne. I am glad you were able to visit vicariously through my post. Have a great weekend!

  6. I enjoyed your dreamy journey very much! My husband and I visited Kauai many years ago, and I still remember many of the images you featured in this post, including the Tunnel of Trees and Puff the Magic Dragon. We had the privilege of flying over and through the Waimea Canyon in a helicopter, and it still remains in the top three of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights I have ever seen. I want to go back!

    1. It sounds like you have the same feelings about Kauai as I do. I'm glad this post was able to bring back some fond memories for you. It is certainly a land of paradise. I also have photographs of the various botanical gardens that I will be posting in the near future.

  7. All I can say is fabulous...heavenly bliss! That Eucalyptus is amazing....

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post Donna. I had never seen a Rainbow Eucalyptus before in person and the pictures don't even give it full justice. It almost looked surreal with all its amazing colors.

  8. Well I am in Maine and this weather is confusing my plants. It's been 50 degrees for over a week, now big snow and next week in low teens.
    My lilies are starting to show sprouts out of the ground. Do you think it will kill then? yvonne

    1. We've had the same thing here on Long Island...50 degree temperatures followed by a blizzard, followed by warming, followed by more snow. It has been a rollercoaster winter with hyacinths and daylilies emerging, thinking it is spring. The fortunate thing is that the snow will insulate the plants and the melting snow will supply moisture...so all is good.


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!