JARS 42n3 - Progress On ARS Research In Hawaii

Progress On ARS Research In Hawaii
George Ring
Fairfax, Virginia

In 1986, the American Rhododendron Society Research Foundation awarded a grant of $1,000 to the Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. The project is under the direction of Mr. Robert Hirano. In February 1988, it was my good fortune to be able to visit briefly with Mr. Hirano at the Arboretum where we discussed progress on his work. The long term goal of the ARS project is to establish a gene bank of Vireya rhododendrons at the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is in the hills to the north of Waikiki. On the day I visited, the weather consisted of swirling winds and mists. Mr. Hirano explained that it was typical of the weather there during at least part of most days. Thermal updrafts from the heated low land meet sea breezes from the opposite side of the volcanic ridges. A parked wheelbarrow full of water was evidence of the resulting plentiful supply of rainfall.

In this climate plants from all over the world can be grown but the Arboretum tends to concentrate on those from the Pacific Basin. Whole areas are devoted to Aroid, Heliconias, Marantaceae, ornamental Ti, Taro, herbs, spices, Hibiscus, nut trees and many other plant families. A major goal of the Arboretum is to identify plants that will grow well in the Hawaiian Islands and improve the range of ornamental and useful plants available.

The size of the Arboretum will be increased 69.5 acres by a recent land trade made by the University. A large part of the original Arboretum area consists of research plantings which are not open to the public. In addition to Vireya rhododendrons, Mr. Hirano is very interested in ornamental Ti ( Cordyline ), Calathea Awa ( Piper methysticum ), and Heliconia , and is establishing important collections of these as well.

The Arboretum is supported by the University and by a Lyon Arboretum Association of 1250 members. The plant introduction and release program is self supporting through plant sales to the association members and to the public when surplus plants are available.

Since beginning the ARS research project on Vireya rhododendrons, Mr. Hirano has established contacts with Peter Schick in California, E. White Smith of Tacoma, Washington, and Tom Tatum in Delta, B.C., Canada. Peter Schick has sent scions of superior Vireya hybrids and seeds of crosses while, more recently, scions of some species were received from Tom Tatum. Mr. Hirano is vegetatively propagating the material received, and is also growing a large collection of seedlings in the experimental area. Some are already two feet high. A few Vireyas were in bloom in the greenhouse at the time of my visit, including an excellent deep yellow flowered hybrid of ( R. zoelleri x R. lochiae ) x R. zoelleri . Mr. Hirano says that many of the Vireyas bloom 3 to 4 times a year at the Arboretum. He has already established a slide collection of plants that have bloomed.

Mr. Hirano is interested in establishing contacts with other members who have Vireya collections. He is especially interested in receiving species in order to increase the genetic range of Vireyas at the Arboretum.

George Ring is the Chairman of the ARS Research Committee.