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A walking tour all about plumeria in Hawaiʻi with local expert Richard Criley

Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, planted plumeria trees 66 years ago at the East-West Center in Mānoa. It was a nod to her legacy of conservation and beautification of nature. The trees now tower over visitors, having grown past 40 feet.

University of Hawaiʻi Professor Emeritus Richard Criley shared that bit of trivia with us. He has spent decades studying the popular ornamental. Back in the 1990s, he made one of his most exciting discoveries using a chemical called ethephon to induce blooms year-round.

The Conversation went out to the UH Research Station in Waimānalo where Criley did much of his work and recently took us on a walking tour. Criley is retired but continues to lecture about plumeria, or pua melia, at global conferences and workshops.

Plumeria Criley profile LT 3.jpg
Lillian Tsang
University of Hawaiʻi professor Richard Criley takes Hawaiʻi Public Radio on a walking tour of a UH research station plumeria plot in Waimānalo on Sept. 2, 2022.

Criley plumeria tip: If you thoroughly wash off the white sticky sap when you pick a branch of plumeria, it'll help the blooms last longer. Click here to read Criley’s illustrated CTAHR publication “Plumeria in Hawaiʻi”.

The Conversation will bring you more stories about plumeria each day this week. Stay tuned!

This interview aired on The Conversation on Oct. 25, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Lillian Tsang is the senior producer of The Conversation. She has been part of the talk show team since it first aired in 2011. Contact her at
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