The flora of Manoa Valley has undergone tremendous change in the last 200 years of recorded history, as the use of the land has varied as a result of new populations and industries moving into the valley. The impact of ranching on the valley land had been especially devastating to the native vegetation. Early in this century, the Territorial Board of Agriculture and Forestry was most interested in planting the denuded watershed lands of the upper valley. Native trees would not grow on the trampled, overgrazed soil. Some of the new trees brought in, such as ironwood, eucalyptus and silver oak, grew well but did not retain the run-off that was needed for water conservation. The Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) was also interested in developing adequate supplies of water for a potential sugar plantation in Manoa-they also had the resources and manpower to set up an experimental area.
In 1919, a pie-shaped region consisting of 124 acres was purchased by the HSPA from Fred Harrison. The property, called Haukulu, had once belonged to Charles Kana'ina, father of King William Lunalilo. Harrison had built a large house and stables, which he used as his country home. Its location was where the rain shelter is situated at the present-day Arboretum, halfway into the "tour area." A cobbled lane led to Harrison's home. Up beyond the old Harrison house was a seismograph station. The Yazawa family lived for a time at the Harrison house before it was torn down in the early 1930s.
Dr. Harold L. Lyon, who was the plant pathologist for the HSPA, had been placed in charge of a newly created Department of Botany and Forestation for the Territory of Hawai'i. After the purchase of the upper valley Manoa lands, he went to the two neighboring landowners, Bishop Estate and the Territory, to arouse interest in the HSPA water conservation project. The governor at that time was George R. Carter, who had a summer house in the area and was very supportive of the project. For a nominal fee, both parties leased to HSPA more than 325 adjoining acres. Consequently, once the reforestation project commenced, rows of trees were planted above Manoa as far as Pauoa Flats. This large area was to be used not only as a plant introduction site for reforestation, but also for trial plots of sugar cane. Thousands of species of exotic trees, shrubs and vines were introduced.
By the 1940s, sugar cane cultivation was being phased out of Manoa. This upland area had been used experimentally to simulate the growing conditions of the Hamakua Coast on the island of Hawai'i. For the next experiment, ti was planted, replacing sugar cane. The new plant was rich in fructose, and it was hoped that it could be grown for the commercial purposes. However, because of this plant's slow growth rate, the venture was abandoned. The Arboretum, with 124 acres, was obtained by the University as a gift from the HSPA on July 1, 1953. The deed restricts the use of the land to the University only as an arboretum and botanical garden and must be used for research, education and public service. The directors have been: Dr. Harold Lyon, Dr. Harold St. John, Dr. Horace Clay, Dr. George Gillett, Dr. Yoneo Sagawa, Dr. Charles Lamoureux, Dr. Alan Teramura, Dr. Dr. Charles Hayes, Dr. Gerald Carr, Dr. Clifford Morden, and at present, Dr. Christopher Dunn.
During the cane experiment days of the 1920s, eight cottages had been built on the property for the use of the workers. Most of the land surrounding the cottages was planted in cane, then eventually replaced by stables and tool sheds. An orchid greenhouse was later built at the top of the road. The cottages were labeled by the alphabet, beginning with "A" as one drives up the road and ending with "H" at the top of the hill. The earliest built, now "B," was constructed in 1920. The last two structures, now "E" and "F," were completed in 1928. After the property was turned over to the university, the residents of the various cottages changed over the years. Now the cottages also being used for storage, a library, research laboratory as well as an herbarium. Between "F" and "G" cottages, Dr. Lyons orchid greenhouse was constructed and is still in use.
Among the many individuals who worked for the HSPA and lived in the cottages was Dr. Tomizo Katsunuma, the first man of Japanese ancestry to graduate from the University of Hawai'i. He was in charge of sugar cane cultivation for the HSPA. In 1940, Dr. Lyon requested that cottage "G" be rented for a minimal amount to Hugh and Myrtle Brodie, with the proviso that they could make alterations to the structure. Hugh Brodie worked for the HSPA and Myrtle Brodie was in the personnel department at the University of Hawai'i. The Brodies excavated under their house, building a handy workshop, and, in the gardens surrounding the house, planted as many as a thousand pansy seeds of many varieties each year. The flowers were widely shared in the community, many going to hospitals. And "Joe," the Arboretum's pet duck, lived amid the pansies. He had his own little swimming pool and diving board. He used to walk "at heel" with Dr. Lyon. "Joe" lived at the Arboretum for nine years. The Brodies stayed there for 25 years.
"H" cottage was originally the home of Edward L. Caum, forester with the HSPA who lived there with his wife until his death in 1952. His widow remained in the home until 1956, after which it was occasionally rented to summer visiting professors at the University of Hawai'i. The Caums had added to the cottage and, over the years, the structure underwent further reconstruction, so that it is now no longer a cottage. In its new expanded condition, "H" cottage has become the headquarters of the Lyon Arboretum, with offices, classrooms, reception center, educational office and book and gift shop. The Garden Club of Hawai'i and the Friends of Lyon Arboretum also have their offices here.
Besides providing one of the loveliest natural settings in Manoa Valley, the Lyon Arboretum offers a great number of classes and workshops on the natural history of Hawai'i, as well as Hawaiian culture and the arts and crafts of Hawai'i's people. The grounds are open to the pubic, and an active group of volunteer docents lead tours of the grounds. "Hui Hana Hawai'i," a volunteer crafts group, conducts workshops and demonstrations on Asian and Pacific arts both at the site and in the community. They also produce the craft articles sold in the shop.
Visitors to the Lyon Arboretum can see not only the tremendous variety of island flora, but also some of the State of Hawai'i's "exceptional" trees. These important trees have been so designated not for their historical importance, but for their rarity or size. Of the 100 "exceptional" trees on O'ahu, 10 are found in Manoa Valley, four of which are at the Lyon Arboretum. These are the Australian kauri pine, the sweet hoop pine, the fishtail palm, and sealing wax palm. The other Manoa "exceptional" trees are a sand box, at 2365 O'ahu Avenue, and five on the University of Hawai'i grounds: the cannonball, makai of Sinclair Library; Indian rubber, mauka of Sinclair; peepul, mauka end of Hawai'i Hall; jack-in-a-box, mauka-`ewa side of Sinclair; and skunk, `ewa-makai corner of George Hall.
For those seeking the beauty of Hawai`i's natural environment, the Lyon Arboretum serves as a pleasant setting where exotic and introduced plants, trees, flowers and orchids blend harmoniously with the native vegetation once found in ancient Manoa Valley.
REFERENCE: Bouslog et al. 1994. Manoa; The Story of a Valley. Mutual Publishing, Inc. Honolulu, HI.