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people standing in a forest

The largest palm collection in a public garden in North America is at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Lyon Arboretum. This recognition was recently verified by the American Public Gardens Association.

people standing in a forest

The arboretum’s 2,519 individual palm trees represent 615 unique species. Lyon Arboretum’s Grounds and Collections Department is working to increase the collection’s diversity through material exchanges, partnerships with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and collection trips made possible by donors.

How palms got to Lyon

From 1919 to 1943, Harold L. Lyon, with the help of Joseph F. Rock and others, brought 134 palm accessions (addition of a new item to a collection) representing 98 unique species to the arboretum. Many of these original plantings, including the Royal Palm Grove, are still thriving on the grounds. Former Grounds and Collections Manager Ray Baker augmented this collection, which greatly raised the number of individual palm trees to more than 2,500.

International Palm Society visit

The size of Lyon Arboretum’s palm collection attracted the attention of the International Palm Society (IPS), which visited the arboretum for its 2022 biennial tour. Approximately 80 members from the U.S., Brazil, Denmark and Puerto Rico toured the arboretum in October. They enjoyed the palm collection and the rest of the arboretum’s grounds through two different experiences.

“This IPS tour was special because we got a chance to show off our wonderful collection of palms to a group of enthusiastic people who truly appreciated and valued these plants and the work we put in taking care of them,” said Liloa Dunn, Lyon Arboretum grounds and collections manager. “I feel strongly that the connections we made with this group of people, although short, will last a lifetime. I look forward to the future collaborations and plant exchanges which will help increase our palm diversity and the conservation of value of this great collection of palms.”

The first experience focused on its lawn areas with a brief Swiss Tree Grippers demonstration from Tylor Schwarze, the arboretum’s arborist. The other route went through nearly the entirety of the arboretum’s trail network—a total of about two miles. In addition to showing off its living collection, there was a talk story discussion between society members and arboretum staff. Lyon’s staff learned a lot about growing plants and how to identify select species, which will lead to partnerships that will only help grow its holdings.

In addition to the IPS members, the arboretum staff also hosted staff from Waimea Valley, Hiʻipaka LLC and the UH Mānoa Campus Arboretum.

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