The author-screenwriter of Jurassic Park and other blockbusters visited the Arboretum in May 2008 with his wife, Sherri, to get acquainted with the vast and varied landscape of the nation’s only university botanical garden located in a tropical rainforest. He died later that year while still working on Micro.
“Some of the Arboretum’s history and gardens, including the bromeliad garden, are depicted very well,” said Christopher Dunn, director of the Lyon Arboretum. “Several chapters focus on action and suspense in the arboretum. Great stuff! I’m delighted with it!”
This isn’t the first time that Lyon Arboretum’s tropical setting has inspired creative minds. It was also filmed in the movies Jurassic Park III and Tears of the Sun – and it’s been a setting for television’s Hawaii Five-0.
According to former staff Alice Katajima, Crichton was a quiet man, but asked a multitude of questions, particularly of the bromeliad garden and talipot palm. Katajima gave the first-time visitors, the Crichtons, something to take home with them as a memento: a bag of jaboticaba (Brazilian grapes). “They also picked some skeletonized leaves from underneath the bodi tree,” she said.
Just like his other science-fiction books and true to Crichton fashion, Micro pits nature against technology. Based in Honolulu, the Lyon Arboretum is portrayed as the “Waipaka” Arboretum. Staff who took Crichton and his wife on a tour of the arboretum are depicted as characters in the book, including Katajima (as Alyson Bender) and Raymond Baker (as Vin Drake), who had an encyclopedic knowledge of the grounds and was an employee for 38-years before he passed in 2010.
The overview on Crichton’s official website states that Micro is about groundbreaking technology that has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting. Graduate students from Cambridge, Massachusetts are sent to the arboretum where they are promised access to tools that will open a whole new scientific frontier. Once they arrive, they are thrust into a hostile wilderness that reveals profound and surprising dangers at every turn, and find themselves prey to a technology of radical and unbridled power.
Crichton’s fascination with the Lyon Arboretum has obviously made a lasting impression. The book was completed by science writer Richard Preston after Crichton passed away to cancer in November 2008.
For more information about the Micro, visit www.michaelcrichton.com/books-micro.html.
As a branch of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, the arboretum serves as a center for educational activities on plants, arts, culture, geography and a range of other sciences. Approximately 34,000 visitors each year participate in classes, research projects other community activities or enjoy the beautiful plant and displays on the 200-acre grounds. The Arboretum is responsible for developing a major resource center for tropical plants with Hawaii-, Pacific Basin-, and Asian-focus, by enhancing its living plant collection and establishing an appropriate reference library and herbarium. For more information about the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum, visit www.hawaii.edu/lyonarboetum.
Top photo: The Bromeliad Garden at UH Mānoa’s Harold L. Lyon Arboretum is depicted in Crichton’s posthumously published book, Micro.