If you have visited the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s (NTBG) McBryde Garden lately you have seen a whirlwind of activity from new plantings to the roar of heavy equipment improving and creating trails deep into the reserve. All this energy is focused on bringing greater accessibility and an increased understanding of the importance of tropical plants to the planet.
If this will be your first visit, the Gardens are easy to reach from our Kauai vacation rental. Located on Lawai Road just a few yards before you reach Spouting Horn. The Visitor center offers a guided tour of Allerton Gardens which is the section of the valley closest to the Ocean. It includes a stately home, manicured gardens and majestic views of the iron red cliffs that frame the white sandy beach.
Amidst all this beauty the buzz has been about the expansion plans for the McBryde Gardens, and they are ambitious. They will include tram lines, primary and secondary trails offering wide concrete paths that will take visitors into areas that before were difficult to access. Elevated stream walks, new bridges, and a proposed tunnel that will lead to bio-diversity plantings and to an area titled ‘Hawaiian Life’.
The Hawaiian Life area will show the visitor how the ancients lived off the land practicing what we now would recognize as enlightened land management. Harvesting staples like taro and yams and returning the unused organic matter back into the soil. Enriching the soil and insuring that the next harvest will provide for the needs of the village. Important agronomic fundamentals that the NTBG hopes you will take back and practiced in your backyard garden.
It’s the vision of a great many people at the NTBG, from its 42 member board of directors, to the affable current director, Chipper Wichman. Wichman, a kama’aina with a multi generational connection to Kauai is an impassioned advocate for the land and the mission. Their goal is to teach and entertain non academics in the science of tropical plants.
With volunteers working side by side with leading botanists from around the world it is envisioned that staff can help bridge the esoteric discipline of academia and reveal its relevance to the visitor. Whether it is to help us understand why the race to save the last three known plants of a threatened tropical species from extinction is important. To why gradual almost imperceptible changes in climate have profound effects on habitat loss and population shifts.
The Gardens will also increase their collections of important food crops, such as tropical breadfruit. It is through their efforts to find and collect all known cultivars of this starchy staple that there will be a resource for plant breeders to work with in the event of a natural calamity that could threaten this species. Why is this work important? It is estimated that a billion people go to bed hungry, many from tropical climates.
The McBryde Garden can be appreciated on many levels. Unusual plants with their odd shapes and vibrant colors will astound the visitor with their beauty. The reasons why they adapted the way they did are as fascinating and complex as their aesthetic charm. A future Learning Center will assist in the dissemination of the latest information and a refreshment area will make it all more palatable.
When visiting the Gardens bring sunscreen, a hat, and mosquito repellant. It will make your time there so much more enjoyable.
Tell us your favorite spot in the McBryde Garden, it’s one of the best things to do in Kauai.