What’s Blooming? Phenakospermum guyannense

Phenakospermum guyannense, the Big Palulu or South American Traveler’s Tree was planted about 23 years ago here at HTBG. This month it has finally bloomed!

Phenakospermum guyannense

Phenakospermum guyannense


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David Tan named as Executive Director for Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

David Tan and Pauline Lutkenhouse

David Tan and Pauline Lutkenhouse

President Pauline Lutkenhouse and the Board of Directors of Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden have unanimously selected David Tan to serve as the Garden’s Executive Director, effective June 4, 2013.

David has a degree in Mass Communications from Emerson College in Boston, Ma.

Before joining HTBG in 2004, David had been in Web development with Wired News in San Francisco.

David began his career with HTBG briefly as a Shuttle Driver and Gift Shop Receptionist before taking on the Garden’s advertising, internet presence and public relations duties as well as managing the Garden’s business with the Cruise Lines.  David has also developed the Garden’s Plant Database and made it available online for the education of the general public.

David has been instrumental in helping expand the reach of the Garden and is grateful for the opportunity to do more as Director.

“This is truly a dream come true” says David.  “From my very first day here, I fell in love with this special place called Onomea.  Today I feel so blessed to lead an organization whose mission is the preservation of Onomea Valley and the education of our guests and school groups as to the beauty and importance of tropical plants. Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse found the valley as an overgrown jungle and dumping ground and created a self-sustaining Nature Preserve and Garden enjoyed by 100,000 visitors each year.  I hope that I too, in my own way, can contribute to making this gem shine even brighter.”

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Garden Improvements

Although we lost the Garden’s Visionary Founder,  Dan Lutkenhouse in 2007, his work ethic and high standards continue to be upheld.  Led by Co-founder and wife Pauline Lutkenhouse, efforts to maintain and improve all facets of the Garden continue apace.

The Boardwalk at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Boardwalk at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden


The first and most pressing task on our list was to upgrade one of the Garden’s defining features, the spectacular 500-foot long Boardwalk Entry.  The Garden’s Boardwalk provides each visitor with a memorable and sensational introduction to Onomea Valley. Following the natural contours of Kahali’i Stream, the boardwalk meanders downward into Onomea Valley, revealing its botanical wonders to visitors a little at a time until at last the end is reached. All along the descent visitors are regaled with a symphony of color and shape.  Brilliant flowers from Tropical Rhododendrons, Gingers, and Heleconia compete with rare palms, towering bamboos and exotic ferns for the visitor’s attention.
Unfortunately, due to the intense forces of erosion present in Onomea Valley, keeping the boardwalk presentable and safe had been a continuous and costly process.  The wind, rain, brilliant Hawaiian sun, and the heavy foot traffic required us to replace boards on a regular basis. Thus, early this year an exhaustive search for a better more sustainable solution was begun.  Fortunately we were able to find American Plastic Lumber.  Their plastic boards are extremely durable and are not porous so they will not absorb stains or water. This makes them able to resist rotting, cracking, splitting or warping from the constant rainfall or discoloration from heavy traffic and plant material.  Plastic lumber is less slippery wet than dry. The material has a paraffin base and just like surf boards that are waxed they are more tacky when they are wet.  Best of all, the plastic lumber still has an organic wood look to fit in the garden’s aesthetic.

The boards are created from recycled plastic milk jugs. One foot of 2×4 contains hundreds of used milk jugs so the Boardwalk construction has removed thousands of plastic jugs from the waste stream.

The boards were replaced one by one, allowing visitors normal access into the Garden and the project was completed in just two months.  Soon after, the staircase to Palm Jungle was also reconstructed with plastic lumber.   The Garden’s Boardwalk entry  and Palm Jungle staircase are now more secure, less costly to maintain and should look as good as new for many decades to come.

Another Garden feature in need of attention was our beloved statue of the Hawaiian God KU.  Hewn from an old Monkeypod Tree by Hilo’s own Master Carver Rocky Vargas, Our statue of KU had been standing guard over the Alakahi Stream Trail for the past twenty years.  Unfortunately, those years of exposure to the elements had begun to take a toll.  Pauline Lutkenhouse invited Rocky to come back and carve a new KU out of a block of

Rocky Vargas and KU at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Rocky Vargas and KU at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

wood from a recently fallen Monkeypod Tree. Fortunately, Rocky happily obliged and began coming to the Garden in the early mornings to start carving.  After about three months Rocky had finished a fantastic new KU which would be erected as the centerpiece for the recently expanded Banyan Canyon area.  The new KU is 12 feet tall and wieghs 3 tons!  To complete the installation a bronze plaque was erected alongside the statue which provides some background on Hawaiian Mythology and Master Carver Rocky Vargas.

The Garden gives thanks to Mr. Vargas whose passion, reverence, and respect produced this masterpiece.


Turtle Point Renovation

At the Corner of Turtle Point, not too long ago, there stood an impressive specimen of Pandanus tectorius ‘Variegata.’
Unfortunately after a severe rainstorm with high winds the plant was found uprooted and fallen over with the surrounding pavement also broken up.  After the remains of the plant were removed it was decided to leave that area as an open space with a picnic area as it provides an amazing panorama of ocean views.

The entire Turtle Point area to the end of Alakahi Stream Trail has been repaved and widened allowing for easier access for those with limited mobility.
Marian Kobayashi who, as a tribute to her late parents, donated $10,000 to establish this collection of the famous Anthurium andraeanum, has again generously donated for its expansion.  Hundreds of new plants including old new and rare varieties have been planted, leaving the entire jungle understory in this area awash in vibrant color.

The Garden has also established a Fruit Tree Orchard made possible by a kind donation from recently retired UH Professor and Garden Board Member, Dr. Yoneo Sagawa.

Trees acquired and already planted include the Siam Sweet acerola, Cashew, Siam Seedless Guava, Petsakon Longan, Pui Fah Santol, Bangkok Santol, Giant Vietnamese Sapodilla,Tikal Sapodilla, Rheedia edulis, Long Kong Langsat, Stol, Sugar Apple, Mamey Sapote, Soursop, Mangosteen, Marang, Permsimmon ‘Fuyu’, Giant White Guava, Nutmeg, Ice Cream Bean Tree  and Ficus dammaropsis (Highland Breadfruit.)

Someday, the bounty from all of these tropical trees will be readily available to educate and share with Garden Guests.
Thank you Dr. Sagawa.


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Curtis J. Malia Member of the HTBG Board

The Board of Directors of Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden has recently elected Curtis J. Malia to serve as a Member of the Board.

Curtis’s election to our Board is particularly poignant to our Directors. Officers and Staff because he is the husband of our beloved late Board Member, Amy Evans.
He is employed as a Police Radio Operator 911 Emergency Operator, and Police Radio Dispatcher for the County of Hawaii, which encompasses the entire Island of Hawaii.

He has been in this difficult position for 23 years and part of his important work is to train Dispatchers. In a career that normally can only last approximately 5 years because of the stress associated with 911 matters, his 23-year dedication to his profession is astounding and to be highly commended. This is a tribute to Curtis’s life-long passion to help people in need.

HTBG welcomes Curtis J. Malia to serve as a Board Member and thanks him for his interest in assisting in the Garden’s future success.

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The Garden Receives Award of Excellence from Scenic Hawaii’s 2012 Betty Crocker Landscape Awards

The Garden has received an “Award of Excellence” from Scenic Hawaii’s 2012 Betty Crocker Landscape Awards.

Many Thanks to the folks at Scenic Hawaii, Inc. for the recognition and also for all that they do in promoting and carrying out programs that protect Hawaii’s natural beauty. Read More Here.

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What’s Blooming? Heliconia colgantea

This Fantastic Pendant Heliconia, Heliconia colgantea R.R. Sm. ex G.S. Daniels & F.G. Stiles, blooms late in the year, November and December. This year it has been more prolific than ever, producing plenty bright pink bracts and setting plenty of seeds.

This Heliconia is native to lowlands of Costa Rica and Panama.

See more at our Plant Database

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The Garden Goes Solar

Paul Lucas and Pauline LutkenhousePaul Lucas and Garden Co-Founder Pauline Lutkenhouse after the installation of our solar power system.

The Garden is pleased to announce that we have recently installed a photovoltaic system for our Visitor’s Center. Our 60 solar panels will generate about 50 KW per day, greatly reducing our energy costs and carbon footprint.

The System was installed by Solar Engineering & Contracting based in Kauai.   Owner and operator Paul Lucas was here to oversee his well trained and professional staff, which had the system up and running in two days.

Solar Engineering & Contracting has been promoting Solar Water & Solar Power Systems in Hawaii and the South Pacific since 1982 and has installed over 7,000 solar systems including some of the largest solar projects in the islands.

We are grateful to Paul for an outstanding job here and also for his life’s work of promoting solar energy.

Thank you Paul and everyone at Solar Engineering & Contracting.

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What’s Blooming? Darwin’s Orchid, Angraecum sesquipedae

<i><b>Angraecum sesquipedale</b></i> Darwin's Orchid 

Angraecum sesquipedale Darwin’s Orchid

Blooming Today at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is Angraecum sesquipedale.  Its called Darwin’s Orchid because naturalist Charles Darwin predicted that because of its long spurs the flower must be pollinated by an undiscovered moth with a proboscis the length of which had never been seen.

His prediction was verified 21 years after his death when the moth (Xanthopan morganii praedicta) was discovered. Read More at www.angraecum.org

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Direct Flights to Hilo starting in June

For quite some time there has been no direct service between Hilo and the Mainland. That is set to change on June 9th, 2011 when UAL’s Continental Airlines will begin service between Hilo and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Click Here for More Info

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Platycerium wandae

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Platycerium wandae This enormous fern is endemic to New Guinea. The Garden’s specimen has reached a height of over 6 feet.

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