Sam’s Hawaiian Odyssey: Sacred Space


For the past few weeks Flower Show designer Sam Lemheney has shared stories from his recent trip to the Hawaiian islands. Click here for past installments. Below he describes his final stop in Oahu, the Waimea Valley.

Waimea, meaning “The Valley of the Priests,” is a highlight of my time in Oahu. It is one of the last partially intact ahupua’a (native Hawaiian land-use systems) on the island. The valley encompasses 1,875 acres and has been regarded as a sacred place by native Hawaiians for more than 700 years.

David Orr showed me the extensive and exceptional botanical collection at Waimea Valley, which includes more than 5,000 documented types of tropical and subtropical plants. I didn’t count them all, but based on my visit I have no trouble believing that number. I can’t emphasize how rare—and endangered—some of these plants are. I had never seen most of them in person before!

My stroll through the dozens of distinct gardens at Waimea revealed a rich collection of native heirloom varieties of kalo, sweet potato, and banana. It also boasts one of the state’s most extensive collections of loulu palms (including Calamagrostis hillebrandii and Pritchardia remota).

One garden is devoted to the state flower, the Hawaiian hibiscus, and all three of its endangered subspecies. Look for the hibiscus to appear on much of the special Flower Show merchandise we cook up—and you’ll see it here on the blog first!

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