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Lyon Arboretum
Island of Oahu


Lyon Arboretum
A Special Place

Some of the best things in Hawaii are free. Deep within the lush garden of Oahu's Manoa Valley, there lies a cool and tranquil oasis - over 193 acres of tropical botanical treasures known as the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum.
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With 160-inch average annual rainfall, temperatures ranging from the 50's to the 90's, and surrounded on three sides by nearly vertical cliffs, the setting is pure tropics. The canopy of foliage here is so thick that when rain falls from a cloud overhead, it takes several seconds for the drops to reach the ground.

Lyon Arboretum, remote in atmosphere, yet easily accessible is a place of refuge, only four miles from Waikiki - an Eden in an urban backyard.

In an overgrazed pasture, this special place started as a nursery project to reforest the Island of Oahu when the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association acquired the land in 1918. Fortunately, as with many "Grand Projects", it devolved over time. Today, as part of the University of Hawaii, the arboretum is a mecca for both scientists and people desiring to study plant life in the tropics. Extensive research is conducted on plants, including their potential contributions to humanity. Its efforts have earned the arboretum recognition as a leader in the fields of conservation biology, ethnobotany, and horticulture. l50.jpg - 8.67 K
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Lyon Arboretum contains approximately 7,500 types of living plants from the Pacific Basin and Asia, including 200 that are native Hawaiian (one of the most extensive collections in the world). Walks along the network of trails take visitors past exotic flora including more than 600 palm species - likely the largest number of palms growing in any garden in the world. The arboretum's renowned ethno-botanical garden contains kukui, koa, hala, noni, kava, ginger - the largest variety of native plants used by early Hawaiians for food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and ornamentation. The arboretum has a public program to disseminate information on how to grow some of these plants, in conjunction with the distribution of selected species to interested individuals. Your sense of smell will draw you to Spice Hill and
the Herb Garden containing many live specimens of culinary spices and herbs.

Look above you - there are over 25 species of birds in the arboretum - making for a successful birdwatching trip while connecting with nature. An extraordinary nature, since well over 90% of Hawaii's flora is found nowhere else on earth.


It is a sad fact that 49.6% of all federally listed endangered U.S. plants are found in Hawaii (a State that has only 0.2% of the land area of the total U.S.). An estimated 272 of Hawaii's 1,102 plant species are listed as endangered, and 10 as threatened - the greatest extinction crisis of the United States. Here, at Lyon Arboretum, University of Hawaii scientists in partnership with the community are doing something about it.

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Lyon Arboretum's micropropagation laboratory specializes in growing and preserving endangered Hawaiian plants - many of which are down to less than 10 in the wild! The lab's work is internationally recognized as one of the best programs of its kind in the world. Supported entirely by grants, gifts and sales of their innovative non-endangered gift plants, and staffed by students and community volunteers, the arboretum's micropropagation program
is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when a university and community work together. Earlier this year it received the 1997 American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta Award for Program Excellence.

Since it began in 1972, the arboretum's plant introduction program has released more than 170 new ornamental plants to the public. Today, Lyon Arboretum introduces new plants to Hawaii and continues its commitment to conserve the State's unique flora for future generations. The arboretum emphasizes the growing of native Hawaiian plants. When exotic plants are introduced, the arboretum tests them carefully before release, to avoid plants that may spread into native habitats. In the spirit of conservation, the arboretum has set aside a 10-acre site on its grounds with the intent of restoring a native Hawaiian rainforest ecosystem. Now the rarest of Hawaiian plants have a "safe haven" - in a place creation - or more appropriately - re-creation.


Most of the arboretum is a "simulated" tropical rainforest based on introduced species. It is "simulated" because plants from many geographic areas are mixed together. A botanical garden has an identified collection of wild and cultivated plants, which are used for enjoyment, education and research. An arboretum is a botanical garden that specializes in trees. When it started, the Lyon Arboretum collections were all trees. Today, the collections are highly diversified. In such an open-air conservatory, the challenge is to provide each plant with a proper environment and the space to "do its thing".
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Hawaii is like Lyon Arboretum - a preserve, a nurturing site where plants and people can grow. Here plants and people that would like to grow together, grow together - in harmony. We need the knowledge that both preserves are there - it is part of being human.

Come, respect and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature at Lyon Arboretum - a very special place in Hawaii - and the world. Resting against the cool, green Koolau Mountains - this magical spot waits to be discovered by Hawaii's visitors.

WHERE: Lyon Arboretum is located at
3860 Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-1180
(at the upper end of Manoa Valley).

WHEN: Open 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday
Closed Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

CALL: (808) 988-0456 for directions and information regarding self-guided and guided tours or Visit their Site.

NOTE: Wear proper clothing, sturdy walking shoes and carry mosquito repellent since the elevation ranges from 450 to 1,850 feet above sea level. Expect to encounter light rainfall, and look for the beautiful rainbows that are a feature of Manoa Valley.

Island Tom, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 1, 1997.

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