The Manini Mango and the Botanic Garden

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ho`omaluhia Botanical Garden the “peaceful refuge” 

Strolling or driving through these lush four hundred acres in windward Oahu, I see that they are very well named  as the “peaceful refuge". It has been open since 1982 and has many of the old trees in the city. Ho’omaluhia is one of the five parks of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens. 

At Honolulu Botanical Garden I was looking for the oldest mango trees on the island. The exact date of the first introduction of mangos into Hawaii is not known. The first documented date of introduction appears to be 1824, when Captain Meek brought to Honolulu several small mango plants from Manila.  Many of this polyembrionic mangos were called Manini or common mangos and many of them still remain in some of the backyards on the different islands. We asked for records at the Botanical Garden and found that 4 trees still remained at the garden, dated to the 1900s.

I was looking for other mangifera species in their records and just one relative appeared in their books: Mangifera zeylanica. We walked the field and here they had 3 big remnant mango trees sharing room with the golden woods. We tried to find the zeylanica , but could not.  I was please to be able to see part of the history of the mango at the Botanical Garden. It is a lovely place, where locals come with their family to camp or picnic. The mountains on one side and the valley opens up with a small lake in the middle surrounded by shady mango trees. 


We stopped by Whole foods to compare mango prices, and mangos varied from $1.90 to $5.90 per pound. Mango flowering in Hawaii occurs from December to April, and it is already late for me to see mangos in their full season in September. There are still some 'White Pire', 'Keitt', and common mangos at the market.

Driving through the old neighborhoods of the city it was evident that the residents take care of their yards. It is Saturday and a day off for many. Gardening is a big part of Oahu's outdoor lifestyle, where residents enjoy a year-round growing season with dependable moisture brought by trade winds. An astonishing variety of fruits and vegetables can be grown here-due in part to the exotic food plants brought to the island by many cultures. They have limited space and use any opportunity to raise vegetables beds and tropical fruits.

Planting dwarf mango varieties would be ideal for residents in Oahu, some of which can take up much less area but produce large quantities of fruit. There is an interest in promoting this type of mango in Hawaii. Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers invited me to their conference specifically to encorage this idea. Tomorrow will be my last day in Oahu and I am looking forward to see the new mango cultivars available in Frankie's Nursery.

My day ended with a lovely dinner with my friend Catherine Werner and her dauhters. Thank you for sharing with me your memories and favorite mango dessert: mango sprinkled with macademia nuts.