This is the process I used for getting involved in the ASBA”Paradise Lost” project that will be due in 2008. It is not mandatory to participate but I found it a fascinating adventure into Hawaiian endangered species.
My husband and I made plans for the trip to Hawaii in late March/April when the plants would hopefully be flowering. I emailed the botanists regarding my arrival date and worked out a schedule so that I could cover the 4 different botanical areas on the island of Oahu during my week long visit. I would be covering the rain forests, the dry land area and the city environment.
I began an in-depth study of the Hawaiian Endangered Plant Species on the internet. I read about the plants in many books but especially used the book Remains of a Rainbow. I also began sketching plants of interest. I tried to be well informed about the plants that I wanted to see. I found that the task of focusing on a small number of plants overwhelming as Hawaii has more endangered plants than any other state and more and more became of interest.
Most of the arboretums and gardens did not have lists of endangered species that they had in their collection. However, with the help of my books I was able to find species listed in the various gardens and on which islands they were located. This process was most critical as I only had 7 days to study, photograph, sketch and paint the plants.
I carried with me in a backpack, a small ultralight umbrella, insect spray, a W&N traveling watercolor set, water, one very versatile Aquabee 808 sketch book and colored pencils. I had a digital camera in a carrying case around my waist and my helpful husband by my side. I had a small 11″ x 13″ expandable plastic portfolio with cut hot press paper, a note pad, a light plastic ruler and pencils and pens. As a plein air painter of 15 years I thought I was traveling light, organized and well prepared but I wasn’t. The umbrella was very useful as rain is always available. However, sitting perched on a slope, on an uncomfortable volcanic rock, juggling an umbrella, a sketchbook and cameras was not an easy task. Adding rain to the mix really made life difficult. A small portable chair was not an option as the terrain would not have been secure. Not all sites were difficult but some were a challenge in that you had to deal with long walks and carrying a lot of gear would have been a struggle. In most cases you could not have used a wheeled case. I also found the most interesting species at the top of a long uphill walk. The camera became my best friend as did the colored pencils and sketchbook. My husband helped me with noting measurements. Having two people doing this job is perfect especially when your feet are on uneven ground and you are wrapped around rocks and trees and can’t manage writing anything. I also suggest that someone is with you at all times if you are in a remote area. I was so fascinated with a healthy specimen on a lose hillside that I fell down the hill when I turned to leave. The earth was soft and no damage was done but it is best not to investigate some areas alone.
The botanist at the Waimea Audubon Arboretum, showed me around this beautiful and fascinating garden and introduced me to many endangered species in their collection. We traveled in a golf cart but hiked over difficult terrain to remote species. Everything moved along very quickly. I did not have time to make notes so I photographed the plant ID tags. That way I would remember the plants and where they were located. Some were in very difficult locations and you had to climb and watch your feet for fear of stepping on some endangered plants. The botanist spent about 2 hours with me. He helped me over difficult terrain, to photograph plants and kept me from falling down slopes, as well as educating me. I was most impressed with him and his tour. After lunch I returned to study and photograph specific plants of interest, to measure, to sketch and observe.
Two days later we visited the Koko Crater Botanical Garden. We were on our own in this garden. There was a map to guide you to the Hawaiian Section which was at the highest point in the crater, of course. It was hot and dry in this garden so you needed to be prepared with water and a cell phone as it was not well populated. Because it was virtually empty I would suggest that you not go alone. The Hawaiian section was worth the long walk as I found some very healthy endangered plants and some wonderful endangered palm trees. I was able to photograph, make notes and take measurements. Painting was not an option because I knew that the long up and down walk would be tiring and carrying the gear would be draining. There were some benches in the area and a picnic would have been fun but that was knowledge after the fact. A very nice garden.
Lil’uokalani Botanical Garden is set Honolulu. It is a small but charming botanical garden. The botanist at Foster Gardens helped me by providing me with a map of the species in this garden. I was on my own with the help of my husband who carried things for me and helped me with measurements. I found endangered Hibiscus, Abutilon and Gardenia. I photographed, sketched and measured the focus of my interest.
I returned to all of the gardens for a second visit during the remaining days and I continued to study, sketch and photograph. My only regret is that I did not have a notebook computer with me. It would have been very helpful to have one in the car and at the hotel at the end of the day.
I gave thank you gifts to the botanists who personally helped me and spent so much valuable time educating me.