Visitors to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Garden will now be welcomed by a new cycad garden courtesy of Adam Sako and his fellow scouts from Troop 95.
Zoo Director Pam Mizuno explained that local nurseryman Patrick McGrath recently donated a group of very large, rare cycads from his personal collection in memory of his late wife, Kristen. Since the existing cycad garden near the zoo entrance was already full, a new site was needed for the donated plants.
“When the scoutmaster from Troop 95 asked me if we had any jobs for an Eagle Scout project, I immediately thought of the cycad garden,” said Mizuno.
Sako had to learn about the history of this ancient group of cone-bearing plants that were abundant at the time of the dinosaurs and their special cultural requirements.
The donated Encephalartos species originate from drier parts of Southern Africa.
To prevent their roots from rotting in rainy Hilo, the cycads had to be planted in raised beds of volcanic black cinder to allow perfect drainage.
“Most cycads are critically endangered in their native habitats, so it was exciting to help preserve these unusual plants for the public to enjoy,” said Sako. “Organizing the project took a year and the help of everyone in Troop 95, but the finished garden is beautiful and will be here forever.”