McBryde National Botanical Garden – A Rainy Day on Kauai

Koloa, HI

Collocated with the Allerton National Botanical Garden, the McBryde Garden was the first of the four National Botanical Gardens on Kauai. In the Lāwa`I Valley, near the south shore, the garden houses the largest collection of Hawaiian flora in the world. The Lāwa`I stream winds its way through the floral gallery.

Rain is not uncommon in Hawaii, especially in the fall. The state is, after all, the Rainbow State, and you can’t have rainbows without rain. Most of the time, the rains are light, showery and fleeting. Give it a few minutes and the rainstorm is over; sure to culminate in another beautiful rainbow.

When we arrived at the garden, it was somewhat cloudy, occasional sprinkles reinforced the notion that any rains would be short lived. Lynn and I purchased our tickets and waited to board the shuttle bus that would take us about three miles to the garden for our 90-minute self-guided tour.

We kept busy shooting photos of the flowers in the garden’s shuttle waiting area. We noticed the posted signs indicating that mosquito repellent might just be required, so I purchased a repellent wipe just in case we would need it. If you visit the garden, be sure to bring sun screen and water as well. Soon it was time to board the bus for the short ride to the garden. The tour guide was personable and provided some background history of the area.

We stepped off the bus and the driver showed us how to interpret the tour map. We could choose to wander through any or all of the four special areas devoted to specific collections. We could stay as long as we want, but the last bus to leave the park would be at 5 PM. Before the guide could complete his introduction to the garden, the skies opened up. As the driver re-entered the bus, he reminded us of the location of the pick-up point and opined that the rain would probably stop in ten minutes or less. Then he was gone.

The skies darkened considerably and the rain fell even harder. Thunder rumbled through the valley and it didn’t take much imagination to realize that the rain was going to be around for some time. We took shelter underneath a shaded picnic area but not before getting completely soaked. I had the foresight to bring along a gallon Ziploc bag to protect my camera. The bag was very helpful in keeping the Nikon dry.

As the rain continued, the Lāwa`I stream that meandered through the garden started to run faster, carrying with it soil that was being washed into the creek. When the rain subsided a bit, we wandered along the path toward the shuttle pickup point. When the rain picked up, we found a nearby shelter and waited until the next letup.

We attempted to walk the first self-guided tour area containing plants brought by the Polynesians who, in ancient times, would take up residence in the island. We didn’t get too far before deciding that the best course of action was retreat so that we may come back another day. When we arrived at the shuttle bus pick-up point, we visited with others who also decided that time would be better spent someplace other than the garden today.

As it turned out, that 10-minute rain would last most of the day and well into the night. The highest mountain on Kauai would receive over 12 inches of precipitation before the storm subsided. Our trip to the garden was not a total wipeout. The tour guide was informative, if brief, and the ride through the park reminded me of the movie, Jurassic Park. And well it should, the area was one of the sites where the movie was filmed.

Please excuse the hurried nature of this gallery of flora we saw in the garden. We saw some interesting plants and blossoms. Though it is my usual practice, I did not take the time to read the placards to identify the plants by name. On our next trip to the Garden Isle, we will have to make another trip to the McBryde Botanical Garden. Hopefully that trip will be a little less fluid.

John Steiner

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