The botanical gardens at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo were recently selected as the recipient of the prestigious Award of Excellence for Community Gardens by Scenic Hawaiʻi as part of the 10th Annual Betty Crocker Landscape Awards.
The gardens have previously been recognized for landscaping excellence with awards including the Outstanding Urban Forestry Achievement Award, the Kaulunani Urban Forestry Project Award and the Hilo Outdoor Circle Beautification Award for Excellence in Landscaping.
The UH Hilo Botanical Gardens consist of three separate areas that feature cycads, bromeliads and palms. Currently, they include one of the largest collections of cycads in Hawaiʻi with over 100 species from 10 genera and several species yet to be named.
One section of the garden has over 40 species of zamia from Mexico and Central and South America. Other sections contain rare and endangered plants from Africa, Australia, China and Vietnam.
A learning laboratory and community garden
The botanical gardens at UH Hilo were started in the 1980s by Professor Don Hemmes when, after hearing a lecture on the life cycle of a pine tree, a student in a freshman biology course asked, “What’s a pine tree? Where I live there aren’t such things as pine trees.”
Hemmes got a shovel, and that was the beginning of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Botanical Gardens, which contain hundreds of plants that students might otherwise not experience unless they traveled outside of Hawaiʻi.
At the beginning of each semester, hundreds of students tour the gardens and learn about various groups of plants, how they reproduce, their distribution in various countries and their general importance in the ecosystem.
“The gardens serve as a source of flowers and leaves to be shown in laboratories and rare plants to conduct experiments in pollination, seed development and pest control,” Hemmes explained. “The gardens are visited as well by many plant lovers and garden enthusiasts in Hilo and visitors who are encouraged to tour the gardens.”
— Adapted from a UH Hilo news release