Was that a Hummingbird?

Our Garden and Gift Shop staff are often asked by visitors, “Was that a Hummingbird I saw?”

The answer is No, Hummingbirds are not found in Hawaii.  The small creature they are referring to is a day-flying moth. Two species of moths, Macroglossum stellatarum and
Macroglossum pyrrhosticta, are often seen feeding on various flowers in the Garden.

Sphinx Moth

A Hummingbird Hawksmoth preparing to sip nectar from a Cat’s Whisker flower (Orthosiphon stamineus)

These moths, commonly known as Hummingbird Hawkmoths or Sphinx Moths are newcomers to The Hawaiian Islands, being first observed on Oahu in 1976.

Since that time, they have spread to all of the Islands.  They may be seen year-round, although most moths are
observed in early Spring as this is their peak hatching time.

The moths have many similar physical and behavioral characteristics to Hummingbirds. They are approximately one to one-and-a-half inches long with a
two inch wingspan. Most have gray bodies with dark markings on the wings, although some species also have pink, rust, or white markings on their bodies. Adding to the confusion is their extremely long proboscis, which they use to sip nectar from long, tubular shaped flowers.

This appendage is often mistaken for a bird’s bill. While feeding, the moths hover in front of the plants rapidly flapping their wings, which also give them the appearance of Hummingbirds.

The next time you visit the Garden you may want to look for these interesting moths along the boardwalk. They especially enjoy the Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus) and lmpatiens (Impatiens walleriana) plants.

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Durian- The King of Tropical Fruits

Durian Fruit

Durian fruits

An impressive sight in our Garden is our Durian (Durio zibethinus), a tropical lowland tree native to Southeast Asia that is often referred to as the “King of Fruits”.   This regal tree has a massive,  straight trunk that can attain a height of 100 feet and glossy green leaves that have a silvery bronze underside.

The crowning glory of this species is the fruit it bears. The Durian produces large oblong fruit, weighing up to 10 Ibs. each, which is green while maturing,  then turns a yellowish color.   It is covered with sharp,  stubby spines and most specimens have a strong odor which some people find objectionable or even repulsive.   The fruit takes about 3 months to mature.   It then falls to the ground and ripens in about two or three days. Once on the ground they split open revealing up to 5 segments of soft,  custard-like pulp which is very sweet,  rich and filling.

The Garden’s Durian Tree is located behind the Cook Pine tree, where there is no danger of the fruit falling on anyone.   Planted twelve years ago, the tree has grown over 50 feet tall and set fruit for the first time this May, bearing over 45 fruit.

The variety of Durian we have is called Gom Pun.   Compared to some of the other varieties grown commercially, the Gom Pun tends to be sweeter and richer,  in addition to having a higher oil content. The Garden staff,  several visitors and our Founders,  Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse,  sampled some of the fruit.  We look toward to even more fruit being produced in years to come!

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Dan & Pauline Lutkenhouse & Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden Scholarship Winner 2005-2006

In 1994 Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse established a scholarship and educational fund
dedicated to providing college scholarships to benefit children from the Hilo and Hamakua areas. Eligibility for the scholarship requires that the applicant major in
agriculture, sciences, medicine or nursing.

This summer, a student from Hilo was selected from a wide range of applicants as the beneficiary, in the amount of $2,000.00, for the 2005-2006 academic
year. Miss Giezel Rivera will be a freshman at Seattle University, majoring in Biology. We would like to congratulate Giezel and wish her the best of luck!

In past years, we have followed the students who have received our Scholarship, and continued to assist some for the entire 4 years of College. One such recipient was Miss Maricel Guanio of Pepe’ekeo. Maricel completed her Nursing degree from the
University of Hawaii. She now works as a specialized nurse in a mainland hospital.

We will keep you abreast of Giezel’s progress, as we hope to continue to support her in the years ahead.

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Garden Founder Celebrates His 84th Birthday!

Dan with Durien

Garden Founder, Dan Lutkenhouse, pictured with several Durian fruits from the Garden’s tree

Our Founder, Dan Lutkenhouse, celebrated his 84th birthday on June 8, with the Garden staff and close friends. Our office was quite a festive place, decorated with a banner and many colorful sprays of orchids. Dan was covered in beautiful, fragrant leis presented to him by the Garden staff. A delicious
buffet lunch and, of course, a birthday cake, were enjoyed by all. The Garden staff sang an enthusiastic version of “Happy Birthday” and wished Dan all the best. We were honored that he chose to share his special day with us.

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New Plants and Special Guests

Several important additions have been made to the Garden’s plant collections over recent months. Six species of flowering trees have been added that were not previously represented.   Three specimens of the rare Golden Gardenia (Gardenia sootepensis)  from Thailand were planted along the Boardwalk entry to the Garden.  The flower of this tree opens a creamy,  pale yellow that turns dark gold a day or two after opening.   In addition to the heady scent and great beauty that these trees will add to our visitors’ experience, this species is also of medicinal importance in Thailand for its sesquiterpine lactone content that has antimicrobial and anti-tumor properties.   Research into its possible use in Western medicine is only just getting under way.

On a hill bordering the Visitor Center parking lot, Colville’s Glory (Colvillea racemosa) has been planted.  This highly ornamental tree is a member of the Legume Family and is native to Madagascar where it has been categorized as “Threatened” in the wild due to its increasing scarcity.   During autumn this tree develops long, drooping racemes of orange-yellow flowers from the branch tips just as the tree is losing foliage for the winter, creating a very spectacular display.

Monkey Fruit

Inflorescence on Gustavia superba, The Monkey Fruit Tree

Two forms of the lovely Gustavia superba, a member of the Brazil Nut Family as are our famous Cannonball Trees,  have been planted along the entry Boardwalk.   The large and showy flowers of this medium-sized tree are borne along the thicker branches and trunk,  and the bright red fruits are edible,  with the oily seeds tasting very much like peanuts.   It is the fruit that give the tree its common name of “Monkey Fruit” in its native Panama,  as monkeys adore the fruit.   In addition, a decoction of the tree’s leaves is said to have saved many conquistadores wounded by poisoned arrows.   Jacaranda brasiliensis, a tree that produces exquisite purple flowers,  has been added to the plants along the entry Boardwalk.

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, the staff had the great pleasure of a day-long visit with the Founder’s granddaughter,  Nataja,  a delightful young woman who planted two trees in the Garden: one for herself and another for her little sister,  Samantha.   The two will enjoy watching their trees grow for many years to come. The Red Saraca Tree, Saraca declinata (possibly the same as Saraca indica, but further studies are needed),  was planted in honor of Taja.   When mature,  the tree will burst into masses of richly colored red flowers. A native Hawaiian member of the Aralia Family,  Munroidendron racemosiim,  was planted in honor of Samantha. The species is listed as “Endangered” and is endemic to the Island of Kauai with very few individuals remaining in the wild.   It is the sole representative of the genus, which is remarkable as the only member of the Aralia Family that bears flowers in racemes rather than umbels or heads arranged in panicles.   As the fruit develops, the large drupes crowd together to form a dense hangling cylinder.   It grows as a straight-trunked tree to 15-25 feet in height.   It was wonderful and a real joy to have our Founders’ granddaughters spend a day with us and we hope she returns often to enjoy and explore the extraordinary place her grandparents created.

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Filming in the Garden

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro at the Garden

A number of filming events have occurred in the Garden over the past several months. The Garden’s great beauty is used to advantage in promoting products in advertising, promoting the State of Hawaii to attract visitors from foreign lands and even as an exotic backdrop for a TV reality show.

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau (HVCB) and Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ), a subsidiary of a large Japanese marketing company,  arranged to shoot photos in the Garden to promote Hawaii in Japan through their ad campaign: “Six Islands – Six Surprises.” The ad features our local famous ukulele virtuoso,  Jake Shimabukuro, as the spokesperson showing “unexpected sights of Hawaii for the Japanese.” It will feature television and radio commercials with Shimabukuro and his original score “Rainbow,” composed for this campaign.  The agency will release a 28-page Hawaii Planning and Sales Guide to make travel agents aware of the “off-the-beaten-track” things to do in Hawaii. A number of posters were created that present Jake before backdrops of Hawaii scenery and these are currently being displayed in Japan’s subway stations and travel agencies. The Garden was used as the location for the “Green Hawaii” posters.   On a very rainy morning, photographers set up at one of the Garden’s upper waterfalls to capture the perfect shot of the ukulele legend,  standing in the rain with a broad and welcoming smile of aloha,  with the waterfall backdrop.   It appears the ad is serving well as the HVCB reports significant increases in visitor arrivals from Japan.

The Proctor & Gamble subsidiary,  Febreze,  was in the Garden to film ad footage in promotion of their latest product: Scentstories, ” a whole new way to experience scents in ihe home.”  The segment filmed in the Garden is to promote the “Tropical Rainforest” scent disc, which is to be released to the market soon.   The project entailed a grand decoration of the three-tier Onomea Falls with thousands of orchids, orange trees, banana trees as well as a wide assortment of exotic tropical flowers.  NBC’s popular reality show, ” Average Joe: Hawaii,” was here to film for a one-day date that one lucky “Average Joe” won on the show.   The episode featured the couple entering the Garden through our beautiful iron gate, walking down the entrance boardwalk and talking with each other at Onomea Falls and in the Palm Jungle.

In early March, Panasonic Visuals will film to promote the Garden as a prime Hawaii visitor destination ina program to be aired on Japanese Travel Channel.

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