Special collections are organized by various intersecting themes,
including taxonomy, geography, culture, and ethnobotanical use.
A collection of plants, a collection of collections
The great collection of plants at UH Mānoa is an assemblage of interlocking special collections, of different kinds of plants. Special collections are important for public gardens because they support educational, research, and interpretive programs; help landscape curators focus their efforts; and help visitors find the plants that most interest them.
Unlike the typical public garden, our collections (with some important exceptions) are not separated spatially, because our situation differs from the typical arboretum or botanical garden. Most public gardens serve transient visitors, who come to the gardens briefly and are focused on the collections, while our landscape primarily serves regular occupants, who inhabit the campus on a steady basis and who each tend to stay in a particular area of campus. Interweaving our collections gives us more kinds of plants in any particular area, exposing the campus community to more plant diversity. It also means that people exploring different collections may be drawn to more areas of the campus.
Collections may be organized by various themes, including taxonomy, biogeography, culture, and ethnobotany. Of course, these themes often intersect, and most plants belong to more that one grouping.
Taxonomic collections are organized according to the scientific classification of the plant, and may be at the level of family (e.g. flowering trees in the legume family, Fabaceae), species (e.g. our collection of Ficus), or variety (e.g. the wonderful array of colors and scents in Plumeria rubra cultivars). Two of our outstanding taxonomic collections are the Palm Garden (family Arecaceae) near Hawai‘i Hall, and the varietal collection of Colocasia esculenta in the Ka Papa Lo‘i O Kānewai cultural garden, showcasing the native agrobiodiversity of kalo.
Cultural collections focus on plants and plant assemblages of cultural significance. In Hawai‘i the most important of these are the "canoe plants" brought from southern Polynesia by the first Hawaiians, about half of which are trees. More recent cosmopolitan introductions have also gained importance in Hawaiian culture, such as the fragrant species used for lei. Contemporary Hawai‘i also enjoys a multicultural society built from the interaction of a number of settler groups, which have each brought their cultural keystone plants; their inclusion in the UH Mānoa collection is a good way to enable students, scholars, staff and visitors to feel "at home" on campus, while providing educational resources for classes.
Biogeographic collections may reflect either regions or physiogeographic or ecological zones, such as islands or tropical dry forests. Our most important biogeographical collections are the native plants unique to our islands. UH Mānoa supports collections of plants from other Pacific islands, and many of the cultural collections also have a geographic orientation.
Some of the thematic collections are curated by specialists with expertise in those particular groups of plants. Curators work with the Campus Plants Collections Committee (CoCo), which is responsible for setting policy for the overall collection. Activities approved by the committee are implemented by BGM / Landscape Services staff. The Director of BGM serves as the Acting Curator for the overall collection.
Our Collections Policy — including our policy on invasiv e species — serves as a governing document for the grounds managed directly by the Campus Arboretum, and as an advisory document for the other entities which manage land holdings belonging to the University. It explains the overall philosophy behind the university's plant collections, and describes our several kinds of thematic collections. It sets protocols for accessioning and de-accessioning plants, and specifies the kinds of records that need to be maintained. Finally, it clarifies our protocols for access to and use of the collection, to ensure that we preserve the greatest value of these plants for the community.
The Collections Policy can be revised as needed by the Collections Committee.
Campus Plants Collections Committee (CoCo) members
- Roxanne Adams, Buildings and Grounds Management (BGM)
- Keoki Baclayon, Hawaiian Studies
- Orville Baldos, Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences (TPSS)
- Kim Bridges, Botany, ret.
- Hiapo Cashman, Ka Papa Lo‘i O Kānewai
- Pauline Chinn, College of Education
- Al Keali‘i Chock, Botany
- Richard Criley, Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences (TPSS), emeritus
- Līloa Dunn, Lyon Arboretum
- Carl Evensen, Lyon Arboretum / NREM
- Eileen Herring, Hamilton Library, ret.
- Sterling Keeley, Botany
- Brittany Lawton, Propagator, BGM Nursery
- Ken Leonhardt, Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences (TPSS)
- Dellin Nakatani, BGM Nursery
- Jameson Ramelb, BGM Landscape Services
- Tom Ranker, Botany
- Nōweo Kai, Curator, BGM Campus Arboretum
- Tamara Ticktin, Botany
- Mehana D.B. Blaich Vaughan, Natural Resources & Environmental Management (NREM)
In addition to the thematic collections, which are comprised of species (or other taxa), UH Mānoa also has a couple collections of trees whose importance belongs to the individual tree, which are remarkable for their planting history or their particular character. Trees which were planted by particular people, or as memorials to people or occasions, are listed on the namesake trees page. We also have seven state-lested Exceptional Trees, described below (largely from the UHM Campus Heritage Report).