Lily Lake Reopens!

Down at the heart of Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden – past the 500-foot boardwalk that leads you into the valley, and beyond Palm Jungle, the Heliconia and Torch Ginger Trails, an amazing orchid garden, and the Founders Birdhouse – stands Lily Lake.

Lily Lake

The lake, which was constructed in the late 1980s, reopened recently following an extensive revitalization. The biggest, and perhaps best, change? It’s in the process of being repopulated with native wetland plants.

botanical garden

“The native plants make up a natural wetland filtration system,” says Operations Manager Ben Graham, “that helps pull nutrients out of the water that would otherwise feed algae. That also allows us to showcase the potential of these plants; the same ones that are being used in restoration projects across the state.”

The native wetland plants that will be in by the end of this year:

  • Ahu‘awa (Cyperus javanicus)Often used to control erosion and in restoration projects.
  • Ae‘ae (Bacopa monnieri)A water hyssop.
  • ‘Aki’aki (Sporobolus virginicus). Also known as seashore rush grass.
  • ‘Ākulikuli (Sesuvium portulacastrum)Also called sea purslane or ice plant.
  • Kaluhā (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani)Its round stalks look like onion leaves when not in bloom.
  • Makaloa (Cyperus laevigatus). A small rounded sedge highly valued by Hawaiians for weaving into mats.
  • Uki (Cladium jamaicense). A dark green sedge.

In addition to the plants that act as a natural wetland filtration system, the lake also has gravel filtration.

Nine varieties of water lilies have already been put in place although there are more to come. One giant lily is a show-stopper, according to Graham.“It’s called Victoria amazonica and it’s kind of prehistoric looking.”

Victoria amazonica, the world’s largest water lily, has huge, round leaves that float on the water and have diameters of up to 10 feet. Its white blooms only last about 48 hours. The lily is indigenous to the Amazon River basin’s shallow waters and it’s the national flower of the Republic of Guyana.


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native plants

Next, the Garden’s team will restock the lake with native freshwater fish to both keep the number of insects down and also clean the lake.

native wetland

Renovating the lake, which was put in by the Garden’s founder, was a big project. Garden workers drained the pond to inspect for cracks or other damage, removed sediment from the bottom, replaced all the plumbing, the pump, and other mechanical equipment, added UV lights, and removed and replaced the filtration system.

native wetland plants

Benches in front of the lake welcome guests to sit and relax for a while. Native wetland plants, fish, and interpretive signs will all be in before the end of December.

Graham and his crew also recently completed renovation work on the Garden’s Cook Pine Trail. Their next big project, starting in the new year, will be a complete overhaul of the Palm Jungle Trail.

“We are going to repave, widen the trail, extend the path closer to the stream so guests have better views, and rework the gathering area at the end, by the waterfall, to make it more picture-friendly,” says Graham.

“We are always striving to improve the garden as a whole—replanting, and working on how to make the garden an even better experience for our guests.”

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