Waimea Valley Harbors Rare, Endangered Plants In Kalo Collection

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - November 25, 2009
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Severo Raymundo (above) plants ‘ulla’ula kuma, one of the most brilliantly colored forms of taro, in the kalo gardens at Waimea Valley.

Waimea Valley hopes to cultivate more than just kalo in its gardens as it invites the public to view rare and endangered Hawaiian taro plants in its extensive Kalo Collection.

“I don’t think that the general public realizes that there are so many different varieties of kalo at Waimea Valley,“said Josie Hoh, botanical group manager.

Valley staff have been compiling the collection since 1976, and it currently has 48 varieties in the ground and 16 more in the nursery. According to Hoh, a large portion of the crop was donated to the valley by the late Don Anderson, the Scottish-Hawaiian superintendent of collections at Lyon Arboretum.


“(Anderson) definitely had an impact on the creation of the collection at Waimea Valley in the 1970s,” she recalled. “He and Nellie Sugii, who is presently perpetuating kalo through tissue culture at Lyon Arboretum, have made a tremendous impact on the collection’s growth.”

Other varieties were donated by Uncle Rudy Mitchell, Auntie Malia Solomon, pioneering field botanist John Obata and Ka Papa Lo’i o Kanewai (the University of Hawaii’s cultural garden). Jimmy and Nellie Pang also bring in plants they find in abandoned lo’i across the island.

Pi’i Ali’i (left) is one of the oldest varieties of kalo grown in Hawaii. Photos from Josie Hoh.

“These individuals deserve much praise for their early work, which we can now share with the community,” said Waimea’s botanical collections specialist David Orr.

Huli, or starter plants, are available for interested gardeners. Contact Hoh at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 638-5875 for details.

“From a botanical standpoint, we do try our best to preserve the diversity of these old Hawaiian forms of kalo,” she added. “If we don’t, they can easily be lost forever. As the word gets out, it will draw people, especially kalo farmers, who truly appreciate the horticultural and cultural aspects of kalo. It also is neat to be able to come to Waimea Valley and view 60-plus different varieties all in one place!”

The kalo is part of the botanical gardens, included in the valley’s admission fees ($10 for adults, $5 children ages 4-12, seniors 60 and older, and military). Parking fee is $5 with a coupon discount for admission.

For reservations, park hours and more information, call 638-7766 or visit www.waimeavalley.net.

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