Sunday, November 1, 2020

National Tropical Botanical Garden- Limahuli Garden & Preserve: A Virtual Tour

Limahuli Garden & Preserve, Kauai
Welcome to the beautiful Limahuli Garden! Located on the north shore of the island of Kauai, Limahuli Garden and Preserve, known for its extensive preservation practices, is the home to nearly 250 taxa of native plants and birds, in which many are rare or on the bridge of extinction. Out of Hawaii’s 1200 native plant species, approximately 114 are already extinct and just fifty of the 300 native species still remain in the wild. The mission of the National Botanical Garden is to preserve the Limahuli Valley and its ancient Hawaiian plants in their natural setting and save them from extinction. I visited this wonderful place some time ago and had the unforgettable experience of observing and learning about the botanical and cultural history of these gardens.

Limahuli Botanical Garden & Preserve

Visitors and Information Center

Terraced Canoe Garden 
Seen at the entrance to the garden are these lava rock terraces that were built by Limahuli's early inhabitants. They are the remains of a large agricultural complex where Polynesians grew food for their communities. The plants grown here are referred to "canoe plants", as many of them were brought over by early Polynesians as they voyaged across the Pacific to the islands by canoe. These tiers of kalo (taro) are visible in terraces that rise above the visitor center in an ancient loi (natural irrigation system) which was recently confirmed through carbon dating to be built 1,000 years ago by native Hawaiians.
Looking up at Mount Mauna Puluo from Limahuli Garden
The extremely vertical peaks of Mount Mauna Puluo in the distance are an amazing sight from the valley below.
Traditional Hawaiian Hale House
This traditional Hawaiian hale house that was reconstructed on the footprint of an ancient house site in a 2013 restoration project led by cultural elders. The ancient Hawaiians constructed the hale house of tropical resources which were and still are very abundant, thus respecting and protecting the forest community of the Limahuli valley. 
Canoe Garden

Awapuhi Ginger Plant (Zingiber zerumbet)
In the canoe garden is Zingiber zerumbet, a species of plant in the ginger family known for its use as the main ingredient in Awapuhi Shampoo. Arising from underground rhizomes, leafy stems with pine cone-like bracted inflorecences grow to about 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) in height. The green floral bracts turn to a bright red and inconspicuous yellowish-white blooms appear. The bracts become heavily filled with a clear, slimy-sudsy, ginger-scented fluid that can be squeezed out and used as shampoo or left on the hair as a conditioner. Awapuhi Ginger thrives in the moist, shaded tropical forests of the world and is native to Hawaii. Common names include: awapuhi, bitter ginger, shampoo ginger and pinecone ginger. 
Curcuma longa (Turmeric)
Turmeric, Curcuma longa and locally known as 'olena, was one of the dozen or so plants brought to Hawaii by early settlers and used for medicinal, culinary and ceremonial purposes. The thick orange or yellow-colored root that is characteristic of turmeric is used as a cooking spice, while dyes from these roots were used to color tapa cloth. Traditionally, the roots are pounded and pressed to extract a juice that, when mixed with water, is helpful as an anti-bacterial in treating earaches and to clear the sinuses. Also, when taken daily, turmeric offers relief from a variety of diseases. Ceremonially, crushed 'olena root combined with sea water is considered a spiritual purifier, to be sprinkled when someone is ill or to bless a new home or dwelling.
Plantation Era Garden
The Plantation Era Garden is the home to pineapple, mango, papaya, fragrant plumeria, gardenia, orchids, Bird of Paradise, ginger and heliconia. These plants were brought over from other locations less than 200 years ago during the mid-1800s after Captain Cook anchored off the islands in 1778. During the Plantation Period the local Hawaiian culture emerged, mixing old traditions with the new.
Plantation Era Garden

 Noni (Indian Mulberry)
The fruit of the Morinda Citrifolia tree (also known as Noni or Indian Mulberry) is actually a species of the coffee family, Rubiaceae. Native to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Noni fruit has been well respected in Hawaii, where it is a part of many traditional medicinal remedies. The noni plant is a source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and potassium and every part of the shrub has been used to treat a variety of ailments. Polynesian healers have used noni fruits for thousands of years to help treat a variety of health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, aches, pains, burns, arthritis, inflammation, tumors, parasitic, viral, and bacterial infections. The juice of Noni is a source of phytonutrients which are known for their antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory effects, thus boosting the immune system.

Cordyline fruiticosa (Hawaiian Ti Plant)
Cordyline fruiticosa (Hawaiian Ti Plant) is not only colorful but has many uses. In cooking the waxy leaves are used as a wrapper for storing and come into use when preparing such meals as kalua pork. The water repellent leaves are also used in roofing as thatch and in clothing for sandals and rain gear. In earlier times, the Hawaiian Ti Plant was considered to be sacred and the symbol of high rank and power. It was worn or carried in ancient ceremonies as protection from evil spirits and is still used today in some rituals. In modern day, red varieties of Ti have been introduced to Hawaii and hybridized to produce a variety of foliage colors for ornamental use and are reproduced from seed.
Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a genus of five species of perennial plants that has become an iconic symbol of Hawaii. It is neither native nor was it introduced by Polynesians. Bird of Paradise is native to South Africa and was brought to Hawaii in the 19th century as an ornamental.
Pineapple (Aranas comosus), a non-native in the in the family Bromeliaceae is also an iconic symbol of Hawaiian culture. It is a relatively recent introduction to the islands, believed to be brought over in the early 1800's. In Hawaii the natural pollinator of the pineapple, the hummingbird is not present, so these plants are commercially cultivated. They are reproduced asexually through either suckers, offshoots or by rooting the leafy fruit tops.
Gazing at Bali Hai in the Distance
I couldn't resist including this capture of my husband gazing in awe. The view of Mount Makana (also known as Bali Hai) from the steps in the garden is magnificent and almost magical.
 Pandanus tectorius (Hala Tree) Root System
Seen in the forests of Kauai is Hala, a native plant of Hawaii that was used by early Polynesians for weaving into mats, baskets, flooring and pillows and also for the sails for canoes. These trees grow to a height of approximately twenty feet and produce thick aerial roots that spread into the ground.
 Pandanus tectorius (Hala Tree) Female Fruit
The female Hala plant produces a fruit which resembles that of a pineapple. When ripe the cluster of fruit breaks into separate fleshy edible parts. Traditional Hawaiian cultures use the hala tree for food, medicine and dye. The roots of the plant were either applied or consumed to treat illnesses, and the leaves braided into a variety of household items. Hala was known to be a food stable during times of famine. Other common names of this plant include thatch screwpine, Tahitian screwpine, pandanus, and pu hala in Hawaiian.
Pritchardia limahuliensis Arecaceae (Endangered Native Hawaiian Palm)
A rare treat to be seen in the garden is Pritchardia limahuliensis, otherwise known as the Limahuli Valley pritchardia. This extremely rare species of native palm was discovered by the staff of the Limahuli Garden and Preserve in 1977. The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) has made massive conservation efforts to save this species.
Pritchardia limahuliensis Arecaceae (Endangered Native Hawaiian Palm)

Native Forest Walk
In the Native Forest Walk you will experience Kauai as it was during ancient times. The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) has made extensive efforts to remove any invasive species and to preserve the native species of the island.
Invasive Forest Walk
The Invasive Forest Walk demonstrates how the introduction of non-native species can quickly take over an area and pose a threat to natives. The plant above is philodendron, which is becoming quite invasive on Kauai. Towering overhead and blocking sunlight from the forest floor in this section of the garden is Octopus Tree, brought to Kauai for ornamental purposes before escaping into the wild. Other examples of invasive species introduced include fire tree, a small shrub that was brought to be used as firewood, strawberry guava, which was introduced as an edible fruit, and other ornamental plants including African Tulip Tree, Scheflerra Tree, Pink Tecoma, Asparagus Fern and Australian Tree Fern. 
Invasive Forest Walk
"The Whale Trail"
Ascending upwards is the Whale Trail. This trail extends along the northern coast line of Kauai overlooking the Pacific Ocean below. It is the site where endangered Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii from the North Pacific every winter to give birth to their young. 
AdAraucaria columnaris (Cook Pine)
These tall narrow pines are known as "Cook Pines", named after Captain James Cook. They were first classified by botanists during Cook's second voyage in the late 1700's.
Endangered Species Walk
Alula is an endangered species that is native to Kauai and extinct in other parts of the world. In the 1970s, field botanists climbed the 2,000-foot sea cliffs of the Napali Coast to hand pollinate the critically endangered individuals in the wild so that they could collect seeds six weeks later for conservation programs. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki destroyed half the natural population of Alula, leaving only one remaining growing in the wild. The natural pollinator of the alula, a species of hawk moth, had also become extinct, ceasing the plant's ability to reproduce on its own. The dedicated botanists of the National Tropical Botanical Garden discovered the lone plant high on a cliff in Kauai, propagated it and have saved it from extinction. 
 Bali Hai (Mount Makana)
Mount Makana, which is highly visible from the Limahuli Garden, was featured as a forbidden but exotic island called Bali Hai in the 1960 movie South Pacific. When standing in the lower part of the valley in the garden below, you can sometimes feel a gentle breeze. In the movie, the legend of the breeze symbolizes the island known as Bali Hai calling you. The name for this peak means reward or “gift from heaven” in the Hawaiian language.
Overlooking Limahuli Garden & Preserve, Kauai

Visitor's Center Limahuli Garden & Preserve, Kauai

I hope you enjoyed This Month in the Garden for November. Be sure to stop by on the 1st. of each month as I share gardening tips, information and horticultural adventures! (Linking with: Floral FridaysMacro Monday 2Our World Tuesday, Travel Tuesday, Pictorial TuesdayMy Corner of the World, Friday Photo Journal, and Image-in-ing Weekly Photo Link-Up )

~As Always...Happy Gardening! ~

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening,© Copyright 2010-2020. All rights reserved.


  1. Great tour!How gorgeous! Some of those plants look familiar to me...Such fun!Hugs and blessings.Thanks for sharing!

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. This is such a beautiful place that I wanted to share it with others.

  2. Amazing beauty - jaw-dropping views in these shots.
    Thanks for sharing at

    1. Thank you Sue and thank you for hosting. I enjoyed your collection of beautiful summer blooms.

  3. Beautiful photos. Everything is so very lush and green. Just amazing! Thank you and have a wonderful week!

  4. I enjoyed the tour, Lee! What an amazing place to visit!

  5. This place seems heaven for Garden lovers.I am glad you discovered it lee.Thanks for joining Garden Affair .Keep sharing your Gardening information.

  6. Dear Lee, you introduced us to many tropical plants. Some of them are known here as house plants like Strelitzia, Cordyline, Curcuma (in the kitchen). I love the scenery of Hawaii, the views of the vertical peaks of Mauna Puluo are amazing, I can say after your husband.
    Take care of yourself.


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!