This Month in the Garden: A Visit to the Allerton & McBryde National Tropical Gardens, Kauai

Allerton & McBryde Gardens Kauai
Welcome to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens (NTBG)! Based in Hawaii, the gardens are a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the research, preservation and re-population of native and endangered tropical plants. There are five botanical gardens open to the public, Allerton and McBryde on the South Shore of Kauai, Limihuli Gardens on the North Shore, Kahanu Garden on the island of Maui and the The Kampong Garden in Coconut Grove, Florida. 
National Tropical Botanical Gardens
Since the National Tropical Botanical Garden has been in operation, thousands of species have been gathered by field expeditions throughout the tropical world. Its living collection includes the largest number of native Hawaiian plant species and breadfruit cultivars in existence. In 2002, the Breadfruit Institute was created by the NTBG to increase awareness and focus on the preservation of breadfruit, promoting the fruit as a highly nutritional answer to global food shortages. The institute also includes five preserves (not open to the public) that are maintained for scientific research and reintroduction of critically endangered species no longer found in the wild, allowing them to grow and reproduce in a natural environment. The preserves include the Lawai and and the Limahuli Preserves, (Kauai), Ka’upulehu and Awini Preserves (Hawaii), and the Kahanu Preserve (Maui). 
Endangered Species Brighamia insignis (Aluha)
On the Combination Tour, we visited one of the areas dedicated to scientific research. Here is endangered Aluha plant. Hawaii is known as the extinction capital of the U.S. because it has the greatest number of endangered species. Over 90% of plants in Hawaii are native and don’t grow anywhere else in the world. The threat comes from  a number of sources including location of the plants, evolution, climate change and the introduction of invasive species of plants and predators. Some species, like Brighamia insignis, are found only on steep cliffs and the main pollinator, the green sphinx moth is rarely ever seen. To the knowledge of scientists, there was only one remaining Aluha left in the wild. The species has now been preserved through the efforts of the NTBG.
 Myrmecodia tuberosa Rubiaceae Tunnels Inside Aerial Roots 
This is Myrmecodia tuberosa Rubiaceae, also known as “Ant Plant”. This unusual plant has tunnels inside its aerial root that provide a habitat for ant colonies, while protecting them from the elements. In exchange, the nutrients from the ants and the debris left by the ants are absorbed into the plant’s chambers. 
  Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasolina)

While heading into the gardens, we passed by this magnificent pink Trumpet Vine with foot long glorious blooms, which are an attraction to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Biodiversity Trail
The Biodiversity Trail is a meandering 800-foot pathway that simulates more than 450 million years of plant evolution, starting with a moss filled tunnel representing the first plant life. Located in the McBryde Garden, each step along the way shows how species have developed in complexity over time, ending with plants of the present. 
Cycad Gymnosperm Reproductive Seed Cones
Cycads are an ancient group of seed plants dating back in time to the Jurassic period, which have been used for food and medicine. Because Cycad seeds are mostly toxic, they had to undergo much processing until they were edible. Recent studies have shown the plant to contain a signaling protein, BMAA (╬▓-Methylamino-L-alanine) which has been linked to the development of Alzheimer-like symptoms in patients on the island of Guam, where the plant is abundant. Now that this is known, the protein’s amino acids are being looked into for finding a possible cure for Alzheimer’s. 
Pineapple Plant  (Ananas comosus)
It’s amazing to be able to see pineapple growing throughout Hawaii. The founder of Hawaii’s pineapple industry was Captain John Kidwell (1880’s) who after much experimentation, selected the “Smooth Cayenne” variety of fruit to cultivate. In the year 1899, James Dole arrived in Hawaii and started a plantation, and In 1922, he purchased the island of Lanai, so that he could establish the largest pineapple plantation in the world. Dole passed away in 1958, and his legacy lives on worldwide as the Dole Food Company.
Cook’s Pine (Araucaria columnaris_
Cook Pine were discovered by Captain James Cook on one of his voyages in the south Pacific Ocean during the 1770’s. These beautiful and graceful trees are very similar to Norfolk Pine, but straighter and more narrow in appearance. Trees are either male or female, each bearing cones. The smaller male cone, about 2 inches long, is found at the end of branches, while the female cones are egg-shaped, 6 inches long and wider in diameter. Female cones are made up of scales that bear the seeds and are rarely seen on the ground because they open to disperse the seeds in midsummer.
 Heliconia bourgaeana Petersen
Heliconia, or Lobster Claw displays yellow, red, orange or green flowers that hang from brightly colored bracts. The growth habit of Heliconia is similar to that of CannaStrelitzia, and bananas, to which they are related.
Heliconia Psittacorum
Here is another variety of Heliconia with multi-colored bracts. Heliconia Psittacorum is also known as Parrot’s  Beak Heliconia.
 Pink Banana
In the McBryde garden are these tropical pink bananas. Never had seen or heard of a pink banana before, it was fascinating to learn about this smaller and sweeter variety. We also leaned that a banana tree produces fruit once in a lifetime and that as soon as it forms the fruit, new shoots are produced which grow into new plants. The original expired plant should be cut down after fruiting.
Tiger Orchid-Largest species of orchid in the world at 150 pounds
Here in the rainforest growing on the side of a palm tree is the largest species of orchid in the world, the Tiger Orchid (Grammatophyllum speciosum), which grows up to 150 pounds!  
 Tour Guide with Tiger Orchid Flower
Our tour guide shows us the beautiful flower of the orchid up close.
Staghorn Fern (Platycerium grande )
Giant Staghorn Fern grow from trees above and reach a diameter of three feet or more. Being epiphytic in nature, these giant ferns derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and from debris around the plant. Their unusual look and beauty never cease to amaze me.
Tropical Hibiscus
Tropical Hibiscus can be found everywhere in Hawaii in a variety of beautiful colors. 
 Vahana Palm Rarest Palm in the World-only 13 exist
A rare treat we came across is this Vahana Palm (Pelagodoxa henryana). It is the rarest palm in the world, in which only 13 exist, one being right here in the McBryde Garden!
White Anthurium (A. crystallinum f peltifolium)
 Anthurium is a tropical plant known for its white, red, yellow, orange or green bracts.
Allerton Garden Kauai
Back into the Allerton Garden is the set for the television pilot and first episode of the well-known Gilligan’s Island, which took place over four days in November of 1963. 
Lagoon from Gilligan’s Island
Here is the infamous lagoon from the three hour tour!
Pulsating water feature mimics heartbeat
Allerton Garden has been transformed through time from Hawaiian Queen Emma, a sugar plantation magnate, and most significantly by an artist and an architect, Robert Allerton. Allerton designed the garden as rooms, which he endowed with beautiful tropical plants and artwork that he collected while traveling to countries around the world. This pulsating water feature is architecturally designed to mimic the rate of a beating heart.
Bamboo Room
There is such beauty to be seen in the gardens, some simplistic, like this bamboo garden…
 Alpinia Purpurata Purest White
to beautiful tropical plants, such as this Alpinia. This variety of ginger is pure white and quite rare. The plant reaches a height of approximately 5-8′ and produces flowers throughout the year.
 Bromeliad
Bromeliads of varying colors can be seen throughout the gardens. I happened to admire this particular variety with speckled dots of yellow on burgundy-green foliage.
Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla)
Last, but not least, in the Allerton Garden are the infamous Moreton Bay Figs from the movie set of the 1997 movie, Jurassic Park! Moreton Bays Figs are large evergreen banyan trees that reach to 60 feet in height with massive buttress roots for stabilization, which can extend to 30 feet above and below the surface. They are by far the most majestic and beautiful trees I have ever seen. 
Allerton & McBryde Gardens Combination Tour Kauai
Allerton and McBryde are truly a tropical paradise with a vast variety of rare and endangered plants, all preserved in their natural environment by the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Accompanied by a very knowledgeable tour guide, the visit was complete.


For more information, visit National Tropical Botanical Garden

Be sure to stop by on the 1st. of each month for This Month in the Garden, as I share gardening tips, information and horticultural adventures! Linking with:  Floral FridaysMacro Monday 2Friday Photo JournalImage-in-ing Weekly Photo Link-Up and Dishing It & Digging It, Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

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