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A Hawaii Kai nursery has been hybridizing hibiscus since the '50s. Now its future is uncertain

Glenn Nii

You can’t talk about Hawaiʻi’s hybridized hibiscus without mentioning Charlies Nii Nursery tucked away in Kamilonui Valley in Hawaii Kai. The future of this second-generation family business is now uncertain.

Glenn Nii sat down with The Conversation to share the story of how his father got hooked on hybridizing. Charles Nii, a founder of the Hawaiʻi Hibiscus Society, is said to have hybridized more than 1,000 varieties.

The blooms have found new homes in Kew Gardens in London and Kyoto Garden in Japan.

Glenn Nii has toiled to keep the family legacy alive but the nursery’s days in the valley could be numbered because the lease ends in mid-2025.

He is one of several farmers who leases land from Kamehameha Schools, including R&S Nii Nursery run by his cousins. The 87-acre valley is the last agricultural subdivision in East Honolulu and is home to truck farmers who grow vegetables.

"Truthfully, for me, I'm getting up there in age. I don't know whether I'm going to stay or not," Nii told The Conversation. "But I'll never stop growing plants. I'll put it that way. It's in the blood."

Kamehameha Schools says it has not yet decided on the future of the valley and so cannot begin lease negotiations.

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 28, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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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