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Thursday, November 20, 2014         

ISLAND VOICES


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Arboretum helps preserve Hawaii's biological heritage

By Christopher Dunn

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National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands that Americans enjoy. Last year more than 150,000 participants nationwide pitched in to care for their parks, and more are expected for the 17th annual National Public Lands Day on Saturday.

This year Hawaii residents can get involved by volunteering for National Public Lands Day projects at Harold K. Lyon Arboretum in Manoa. Trail restoration projects, removal of invasive species, planting of native species, reforestation projects and water quality testing are among the activities will highlight the diversity of Hawaii's tropical plants and natural resources.

The day also reminds us of the need to preserve and protect our state's endangered native plant species.

Every species of native Hawaiian plants today is rare. Together they comprise nearly 50 percent of the nation's endangered plants.

Tropical plant sustainability crosses native Hawaiian cultural as well as environmental issues. If we lose native plants like koa, ohia or taro, we lose a significant part of our cultural identity, just as if we lost a part of our language. National Public Lands Day is a chance to preserve that part of our culture for present and future generations.

Lyon Arboretum maintains a world-renowned collection of more than 5,000 tropical plant species, including one of the largest palm collections found in a botanical garden.

The arboretum's Hawaii Rare Plant Program is an active research facility that includes a groundbreaking tissue-culture program for test-tube propagation of endangered plants. This process of rescue and recovery is critical to the survival of Hawaii's endemic plants.

The University of Hawaii Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden is the only university botanical garden located in a tropical rainforest in the United States, as well as the only easily accessible tropical rainforest on the island of Oahu.

The arboretum consists of almost 200 acres at the top of the Manoa watershed, with a set of small cottages and greenhouses used for research and community education about plants and the natural environments of Hawaii.

Volunteers for National Public Lands Day at Lyon Arboretum will include young children, families, community groups, University of Hawaii groups and individuals. Jobs will range from strenuous "weed workouts" to lighter projects that include painting, restoring signs, cleaning garden and trail areas, and jobs in the children's garden for youngsters and families to get involved.

We expect to remove more than 1,000 invasive weeds and restore trails, signage and open garden areas around the property as part of the morning work efforts.

With the help of community volunteers, efforts made that morning as well as throughout the year at Lyon Arboretum will help preserve Hawaii's biological heritage for generations to come.






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