Monday, April 19, 2010

Kauai's McBryde Garden: Eden preserved

McBryde Garden, pocketed into a lush stream valley on Kauai's sunny south shore, is often overshadowed by its neighbor, Allerton Garden, the beachfront oasis that has been a set piece for many Hollywood movies as well as TV's Fantasy Island.

But many independent travelers may prefer the unguided tours at McBryde, free to wander this sprawling dreamland of native plants and trees, a spice garden and clusters of exotics, all spread along a stream that is spanned by a bamboo bridge and punctuated by cascades, pools, and a gazebo. No one will have trouble finding a spot to sit and be mesmerized by nature.

The subtext of this sylvan beauty is McBryde's aim of scientific research. Rare and endangered plants are cultivated and preserved. (Several years ago, National Geographic Magazine did a spread on one plant that was was literally saved from extinction by a botanist who hung from a cliff on Kauai's north shore to grasp the last of thee species.) McBryde hosts volunteer days for visitors who are interested in helping out.

Together, McBryde and Allerton comprise two of the country' five National Tropical Botanical Gardens—and visitors don't have to choose between them. Stop by the visitor's center in Lawai, across from Spouting Horn, where shuttle buses embark on daily tours of both.