Aloha from 10,000 feet above sea level

Posted on August 5th, 2009 – 11:14 AM
By Jaime Chismar

You can take the greengirl out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the greengirl.

Our honeymoon was no exception. I was scoping out the plants the minute our plain landed in Maui. “Hey, is that a sugar cane fields Do you think these palm trees native? Can creeping charlie survive here?”

Since I started gardening, I’ve changed how I travel. I still adore a kitschy tourist trap, but I also have this irresistible urge to explore local microclimates and their unique flora and fauna. Maui has many, including a desolate volcanic crater 10,000 feet above sea level.

If you can imagine a trip to paradise with a detour through Mars, you can imagine Maui’s Mt. Haleakala.


On the slopes lives a unique plant, the Silversword. This gorgeous silver pompom can live over 50 years, but flowers only once in its life and dies soon after it blooms. The one below was almost three feet in diameter. (Note: You can see a receipt stuck in its leaves for scale.)


It is absolutely striking to see its silver leaves against the red and black volcanic rock, but don’t look for this plant at Bachman’s anytime soon. In the 1920′s, silverswords were on the brink of extinction. Now the plant is strictly monitored and protected by the U.S. government. Through conservation efforts, the silversword has been reclassified as a threatened species. You can read more about it here:

Silverswords are members of the Asteraceae family. If you are growing asters or sunflowers in your garden, you are growing a relative of this beauty. Take a peak at the flower in bloom and you’ll instantly recognize the petal formation:

So how far would you travel to see a rare plant? Does you inner plant nerd come out on vacations, too?

5 Responses to "Aloha from 10,000 feet above sea level"

sparklegirl says:

August 5th, 2009 at 11:49 am

Great photos, Jaime! My love of plants (and animals) definitely takes over when I’m on vacation. Luckily, many zoos do such a nice job with plants that I can get both a flora and fauna fix while I’m there. On a Europe trip last year, I took *hundreds* of plant photos at Hortus Botanicus and the Artus Zoo (Amsterdam, Netherlands), as well as the Ljubljana Zoo and Tivoli Park (Ljubljana, Slovenia). I’d be in real trouble if I were using film instead of digital!

Geoff says:

August 5th, 2009 at 11:56 am

I don’t think you were honeymooning right.

Anneesha says:

August 5th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I remember my mom and dad taking a trip to Hawaii when I was young and all the photos when they came back were of hiking these craters and of the indigenous plants as well! Hope you had a great time.

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August 5th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

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