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Lyon Arboretum longtime mission to protect Hawaii plant life, educate visitors endures

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In 1991, Lyon Arboretum started the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program, using micropropagation as a tool for plant generic conservation. The arboretum’s micropropagation lab — the only one of its kind — prevents the extinction of native Hawaiian plant species by maintaining plant and seed back collections and propagating plants for use in restoration and reintroduction projects.

The view from Inspiration Point, found at the end of one of the arboretum's many hiking trails.

To date, the lab has grown about 300 Hawaiian plant taxa—taxonomic groups—using micropropagation techniques. It also houses more than 16,000 individual plants and 160 native plant species, including 67 varieties of taro and 13 varieties of banana.

But that’s still less tan 50 percent of the species requiring protection.

This month the Hauoli Mau Loa Foundation—a private grant-making foundation—gifted the arboretum $600,000 for improving its micropropogation lab. The new facility will nearly double the size of the existing lab, providing a more efficient working environment to aid in the critical rescue and recovery research being done there.

Flowers bloom along the main trail.

“If we are to meet the pressing conservation needs of the state and the region, a larger, efficient and updated laboratory is imperative,” Dunn says. “The work we are doing at Lyon Arboretum to safeguard as many of rare native plants as possible is the only such program in the state. It is critical that we continue our work. Thus, we are thrilled at the support from the Hau'oli Mau Loa Foundation that will allow us to develop a new conservation laboratory.”

Want to visit the Lyon Arboretum? It is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Entry is free, but donations are accepted. A guided tour is offered at 10 a.m., Monday through Friday, for a $5 per person fee; advance reservations are required for guided tours, call (808) 988-0461.

You’ll find a list of Lyon Arboretum classes and more information on the arboretum, its gardens and its trail system at www.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum.

The Lyon Arboretum is located at the end of Manoa Road, in Manoa Valley.

A plaque along the main trail honoring arboretum namesake Harold L. Lyon.

Photos by David Croxford for HawaiiMagazine.com

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