Members of the Hawaii Island Palm Society recently toured the palm and cycad gardens and the Hilo Core Genetics Facility DNA lab at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
In the lab, Director Anne Veillet demonstrated how DNA is extracted from a living organism, how the amount of DNA is increased through a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), and how the DNA is sequenced and then compared to other known sequences on a large data base to find a “match” and be able to identify a plant.
In this case, Veillet used material from Pritchardia beccariana, a native Loulu palm. The Palm and Cycad Gardens at UHH were started by Don Hemmes, professor emeritus of biology, in 1985. They are seen as a “living laboratory” for biology classes.
The gardens were planted and have been maintained all these years by Hemmes with part-time aid from student helpers. The gardens were awarded the Outstanding Urban Forestry Achievement Award from the Kaulunani Urban Forestry Program in 1994 and the prestigeous Betty Crocker Award from Scenic Hawaii in 2012.
The cycad garden contains one of the largest cycad collections in Hilo, including 40 species of Hemmes’ favorite genus, Zamia. Many colorful bromeliads are included in the garden. The palm garden features palms from around the world, including several species of Licuala.
More information about the Hawaii Island Palm Society is available at: www.hawaiiislandpalmsociety.com or by contacting President Tim Brian at 333-5626.