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Explore the many varieties of plumeria at Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Catherine Cruz

Frangipani, melia, or plumeria. Whatever you call this fragrant bloom, it's coming to the end of its growing season. The trees will enter a dormant period. Leaves will drop and so will their watering needs until it gets close to spring.

The Conversation took a trip to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden — one of four gardens that the city operates on Oʻahu. A mature plumeria grove offers visitors a chance to see unusual seed pods and a variety of trees.

There’s one variety whose branches grow down toward the ground. And another whose leaves are more than a foot long. Flowers from this garden are part of the Memorial Day tradition of honoring the gravestones at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

The grove includes collections of some of the early plumeria pioneers: Jim Little, who wrote a book on raising plumeria, and Bill Moragne, who was a key hybridizer. And it was Paul Weissich who created the city’s botanical gardens.

Talia Portner, the horticulturist for the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, says the young crater, a result of an eruption 7,000 years ago, offers mineral-rich soil that is fertile ground for the drought-tolerant plumeria.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Oct. 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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