The botanical gardens at UH Hilo were started in the 1980s by Professor Don Hemmes when, after hearing a lecture on the life cycle of a pine tree, a student in a freshman biology course asked, “What’s a pine tree? Where I live there aren’t such things as pine trees.” Hemmes got a shovel, and that was the beginning of the University of Hawai’i Botanical Gardens, which contain hundreds of plants that students might otherwise not experience unless they traveled outside of HawaiÊ»i.
The UH Hilo Botanical Gardens consist of three separate areas that feature cycads, bromeliads, and palms. Currently, they include one of the largest collections of cycads in Hawai’i with over 100 species from 10 genera and several species yet to be named. One section of the garden has over 40 species of Zamia from Mexico and Central and South America and other sections contain rare and endangered Encephalartos and Stangeria from Africa, Macrozamia, Lepidozamia, and Bowenia from Australia, and Cycas from China and Viet Nam.