Botanist dedicated toBy Burl Burlingame
WHILE any schoolkid in Hawaii today can draw a simple diagram of the cycle of water in Hawaii -- rain in the mountains percolates into a below-ground artesian lens -- it was little understood when this century dawned. Even by the industrial sugar and pineapple farms dependent on this cycle.
Luckily, Hawaii Sugar Planters Association botanist Harold Lyon intuitively understood the interconnections of Hawaii's delicate ecology.
Hired by the HSPA in 1907, just a few years after he received his doctorate in botany, Lyon devoted the rest of his life to botanical research in Hawaii. Although he became the world authority on sugar-cane diseases, Lyon is best remembered as one of the industrial leaders that created Hawaii's role in international agriculture.
Lyon's work with sugar cane led directly to reforesting experiments and programs, as he believed that, without a mountain watershed, the huge sugar plantations would suck the aquifer dry before the century's end.
Although criticized for importing alien species to replace native plants, he created nurseries and arboretums to help preserve unique Hawaiian plant species.
Still active after retirement in 1948, Lyon was in the midst of combining the resources of Foster Gardens, the Manoa Arboretum and other botany programs into an integrated whole when he died in 1957.