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A family history discovery led this local woman to hibiscus hybridization

Valentine S. Holt hibiscus
Catherine Cruz
Valentine S. Holt hibiscus

For more than a decade and a half, The Hibiscus Lady — Jill Coryell — had been searching for relatives of Valentine Stillman Holt. You may not be familiar with the name, but Coryell considers him a key character in the history of hybridizing hibiscus in Hawaiʻi.

For Coryell, it took a chance meeting in a church hall one Sunday with Arma Richardson Oana to find the missing piece of the puzzle. Oana is the executive president of Na Wahine`O Kamehameha — the Royal Order of Kamehameha in the state.

For Oana, it turned out to be a voyage of discovery. The Royal Order is all about honoring the lineage of the Hawaiian monarchy, but Oana tells The Conversation she didn't know about the notable “botanical” lineage of her family.

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 27, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1. Find more stories about hibiscus from The Conversation below.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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