Just a few steps inside the grounds of Foster Botanical Garden yields a stunning sight in the far mauka corner of the 14-acre property: a 40-foot talipot palm topped with showy yellow stalks bearing millions of small flowers.
It’s a bittersweet bloom, as the trees flower once and then die.
Native to India and Sri Lanka, the talipot palm’s inflorescence, or branched flower clusters, can reach up to 26 feet and are the largest of any plant.
The Foster palm was planted in 1992, making it about 25 years old. It started flowering in late June, said Honolulu Botanical Gardens director Joshlyn Sand. The flowering process takes about eight months, and after producing mature seeds, the tree will die within about four months.
The talipot’s giant fronds, which can span 16 feet, are used for thatching and umbrellas. Historically, the leaves also were used to create palm leaf manuscripts. (The great Indian epic, Ramayana, was said to have been written on them.)
Foster Botanical Garden — an oasis of beauty and calm amid downtown Honolulu — is at 180 N. Vineyard Blvd. and is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Admission is $3 for residents, $5 nonresidents, $1 children ages 6-12, free 5 and under; annual family pass $25.
Info: 522-7060 or honolulu.gov/parks/hbg.