Tropical Gardening: Orchids to tropical trees make the Orchid Island unique

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Traffic travels south on Banyan Drive in March 2018 in Hilo.

Our islands are blessed with spectacular scenery and a multicultural society that, for the most part, appreciates the natural environment.

This is because of the many groups such as the Outdoor Circle, palm society, orchid societies, Nature Conservancy and youth and religious groups that make the effort to protect and enhance the beauty of Hawaii.


One example is the East Hawaii Outdoor Circle that is making 2019 a year of greening by planting new trees and saving historic ones. The group is making the effort to encourage state and county governments to save and care for the Malaysian banyan trees on Banyan Drive in Hilo.

There is no drive quite like Banyan Drive anywhere on the mainland.

The circle also is giving away almost 1,000 trees through a grant from the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with Federal Express and the Community Tree Recovery Program. Its mission is to help rebuild communities affected by the natural disasters of 2018. The giveaway is slated for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at Ho‘olulu Park, across from the civic center on Manono Street. Trees will be given away until all of them have found homes.

The original Outdoor Circle formed in Honolulu about 1912 to fight against the proliferation of billboards and destruction of historic trees. Since that time, this enthusiastic group of local residents has been instrumental for landscape beautification throughout the state. The fact that our islands are free of billboards and other obtrusive signs is because of the efforts of the Outdoor Circle.

One of its most ambitious projects is planting a “Lei of Green” along Hawaii’s coastlines. In Kona, the focus was coconuts at Old Kona Airport Park, Honokohau Harbor and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole.

On Hawaii Island, branches of the Outdoor Circle have been active since the 1950s. There are branches in East Hawaii, Waimea and Waikoloa. One of the most active branches, with hundreds of members, was the Kona Outdoor Circle, which unfortunately became dormant. The educational building and gardens remain, but there is a dire need to find leadership to continue educational programs and landscape projects, as well as work with the county, state and developers to improve the community.

Since we are mind of palms, remember that Hawaii’s coconut palms are an important part of our heritage and environment.

Carried here by the first Polynesians more than 1,000 years ago, they have been a main food and shelter source. Today, it is an ornamental but still an important resource in tough times.

However, our palms are threatened by a virus-like disease now found in Florida, Texas and many areas of the Caribbean and South America. The disease has the ominous name of lethal yellowing. Other devastating pests are the red palm weevil and rhinoceros beetle.

To protect coconut and many other species of palms in Hawaii, it is essential to avoid bringing in these pests.

Another example of a group helping make our landscapes special is the Hilo Orchid Society.

This is the largest orchid society in the islands and puts on a grand show and sale every year. This year, the show is June 28-30 at Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

With close to 200 members creating gorgeous displays, it will be an event not to miss. There also will be a series of educational classes, food and Hawaiian music. The Hawaii Island Palm Society, University of Hawaii Master Gardeners, Tropical Vireya Rhododendron Society and Aquatic Garden group also will be there to tweak your interest in other horticultural endeavors.


For more information, check out or call show coordinator Karl Mendoca at 970-989-8064.

Individuals with home garden questions can call the Master Gardener Growline at 322-4769 for answers. Master Gardeners also are available Friday mornings at the Kona Outdoor Circle; call 329-7286.

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