Honolulu Botanical Gardens

Honolulu Botanical Gardens

A garden in the midst of busy downtown Honolulu? Yes! And here at Foster Botanical Garden, visitors find a refreshing change from the chaos of the city. As the oldest of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, Foster Garden displays a mature and impressive collection of tropical plants. Some of the magnificent trees in this 14-acre garden were planted in the 1850s by Dr. William Hillebrand. They marked the beginning of a heritage that became The Honolulu Botanical Gardens.
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Honolulu Botanical Gardens

Tropical flora requiring a cooler environment finds a home at the Wahiawa Botanical Garden, a 27-acre garden where extensive efforts were made to create a collection of native Hawaiian plants. The Hawaii Sugar Planters Association leased the land from the state in the 1920s and experimented with different types of tree planting and many of those trees still stand today. The site became a public botanical garden in 1957. The Liliuokalani Botanical Garden spans nearly eight acres and is devoted entirely to native Hawaiian plants. Once a favorite picnic spot of Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, she later bequeathed her land to the City and County of Honolulu for public use. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, favored the area as a picnic spot. She later bequeathed her land to the City and County of Honolulu for public use.
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Honolulu Botanical Gardens

Not all botanical gardens are lush and green, but still worthwhile nonetheless. Xeriscaping is the focus of Koko Crater Botanic Gardens, located in a 60-acre basin in east Honolulu (it’s just up the road from Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve). You’ll naturally see a lot of cacti and succulents here, as well other rare and endangered dryland plants, such as those from Africa and Madagascar, dryland palms and plumerias. The garden is a great example of Hawaii’s diverse ecosystems. honolulu.gov/parks/hbg.html.
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Honolulu Botanical Gardens

Honolulu Botanical Gardens curates and maintains five gardens around Oahu: Foster, Hoomaluhia, Koko Crater, Liliuokalani and Wahiawa. On the surface, the sites showcase diverse tropical plants (the largest collection in the U.S.). Dig deeper to understand the gardens’ mission to conserve tropic and sub-tropic flora, including native Hawaiian specimens.
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Foster Botanical Gardens offers a slice of serenity from the bustle of city life, despite being nestled in the heart of Honolulu. This 14-acre park is the city and county’s oldest botanical garden and today has an impressive collection of tropical plants and trees, some of which were plants in the 1850s. Don’t miss the outdoor butterfly garden and the prehistoric flora collection.
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Dr. Harold Lyon, the first director of Foster Garden, introduced thousands of new plants and trees to Hawaii, and started its famous orchid collection. Paul Weissich, director from 1957 to 1989, expanded Foster Garden to 14 acres (5.7 ha) of native plants, and developed four additional sites on Oahu Island to create the 650 acres (260 ha) Honolulu Botanical Gardens system. Taken as a whole, these five gardens feature rare species from tropical environments ranging from desert to rainforest, comprising the largest and most diverse tropical plant collection in the United States.
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In Hawaiian, hoomaluhia means “a peaceful refuge.” It’s certainly a fitting name for this 400-acre Windward Oahu botanical garden surrounded by the Koolau Mountains. These verdant gardens were designed in 1982 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood protection for Kaneohe and feature plants from the Americas, Africa, India, Melanesia, Polynesia and, of course, Hawaii. Even better, Hoomaluhia has a 32-acre lake, from which you can do catch-and-release fishing, framed by sprawling lawns, ideal for picnicking and lazy afternoon naps. honolulu.gov/parks/hbg.html.
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In 1853, Queen Kalama leased 4.6 acres (1.9 ha) of land to William Hillebrand, a German physician and botanist who built his home and planted trees on the site. During his stay, he introduced a number of plants to Hawaii, as well as deer and mynah birds. Many of the large trees growing today on the Upper Terrace were Hillebrand’s plantings. After 20 years Hillebrand returned to Germany, where he published Flora of the Hawaiian Islands in 1888. In 1884 the property was sold to Thomas R. Foster and his wife Mary E. Foster (née Robinson), who continued to develop the garden as their homesite. Upon her death in 1930, Mary Foster bequeathed the land and her home to the City and County of Honolulu, with the provision that the city accept and forever keep and properly maintain the (gardens) as a public and tropical park to be known and called Foster Park. At the time, the gardens were roughly 5.5 acres (2.2 ha).

Later, the property was sold to Thomas and Mary Foster, who added to surroundings. Upon Mrs. Foster’s death in 1930, the 5.5-acre site was bequeathed to the City & County of Honolulu as a public garden. Foster Botanical Garden opened to the public in November 1931 with Doctor Harold Lyon as is first director. (Dr. Lyon introduced 10,000 new types of trees and plants to the Islands over a span of 27 years.)
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You came to the Islands for its stunning sandy beaches, the turquoise waves tickling your toes. But there are great botanical gardens, too. Each is maintained with lush, indigenous flora, as well as unique plants and trees from across the globe. These gardens are worth a visit. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time for the beach.
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The Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is hidden and rarely crowded. Still, you’ll find ample amenities: Follow a winding trail past marked plants; the dirt trail leads to a covered picnic area (where food-curious ducks waddle close). Try catch-and-release bamboo pole fishing or call ahead to register for guided nature hikes. In the desert-like landscape of Koko Crater Botanical Garden, a wide, two-mile loop blooms with plumeria year ’round and, some days, fragrant, fallen flowers form a carpet beneath your feet.
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Foster also has an amorphophallus titanum plant, around 5 feet tall. When its flower blooms every three to five years, it smells like a dead body, hence its nickname, the corpse plant. honolulu.gov/parks/hbg.html.
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Foster Garden began in 1853 when Queen Kalama leased land to William Hillebrand, a young German doctor. A physician and botanist, Hillebrand built a home in the upper terrace of the garden and planted several trees that stand majestic today. Mary Foster bought the property and expanded the garden until her death. She bequeathed the 5.5-acre garden to the City and County of Honolulu for public enjoyment. Dr. Harold Lyon became the first director, introducing 10,000 new trees and plants and starting an orchid collection. Through purchases and gifts, the garden now stands at 13.5 acres and is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered, which have been collected from the world’s tropics over a period of 150 years.
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FOSTER GARDEN Foster Garden began in 1853 when Queen Kalama leased land to William Hillebrand, a young German doctor. A physician and botanist, Hillebrand built a home in the upper terrace of the garden and planted several trees that stand majestic today. Mary Foster bought the property and expanded the garden until her death. She bequeathed the 5.5-acre garden to the City and County of Honolulu for public enjoyment. Dr. Harold Lyon became the first director, introducing 10,000 new trees and plants and starting an orchid collection. Through purchases and gifts, the garden now stands at 13.5 acres and is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered, which have been collected from the world’s tropics over a period of 150 years.
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This lush botanical garden is part of a partially intact ahupuaa (traditional land division), spans nearly 2,000 acres and features a towering waterfall. Native Hawaiian high priests and their descendants lived in and cared for the valley for centuries; Kamapuaa, the ancient Hawaiian ruler of Oahu, dubbed it the “Valley of the Priests.” Today, the park is home to more than 5,000 tropical and subtropical plants including native and endangered Hawaiian flora. Here, you’ll see Hawaiian hibiscus, loulu palms and more than 48 species of kalo (taro) being grown in traditional loi, or irrigated agricultural terraces. Waimea Valley also features a fully restored hale o Lono (house of Lono). Trails throughout the park lead to the 45-foot-tall Waimea Falls in which you can swim. waimeavalley.net.