Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, March 23, 2001

Rare plant wears
lei of blue blossoms

By Suzanne Tswei

Plant lover Ray Baker knew he stumbled onto something good when he saw the Cyanastrum cordifolium on a plant-collecting trip to Barbados in 1986.

"It's a cute little thing with nice shiny green leaves and blue flowers. It has subtle beauty," Baker said.

He brought a handful of corms back to Hawaii and planted them at Lyon Arboretum, where he is collections manager. The corms prospered, sprouting dark green heart-shape leaves and clusters of dainty blue flowers.

"Blue flowers in the tropics are rare," Baker said. "That makes it an unusual plant."

After 15 years the arboretum is releasing offspring of this unusual plant, a native of tropical Africa, for the first time. About 200 will be for sale at the Spring Plant Sale tomorrow at the Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. Four-inch pots will sell for $8, and 6-inch pots for $12.

Liz Huppman, an arboretum research associate, said the plant is easy to care for and makes an attractive potted plant in well-lit indoor locations. It likes partial shade outdoors and resembles a giant violet from afar.

Initially the flowers, which are formed at the base of the plant, will be spare, but when the plant matures, the flowers will multiply to resemble "a lei of blue flowers," Huppman said.

Thousands of other plants also will be for sale, including unusual varieties from commercial nurseries. Some of them are yellow-flowered clivia, blue and white sandpaper vines, miniature iris, hybrid hibiscus and roses, rare palms and native Hawaiian plants.

Handicrafts, fresh lei, jams, jellies, garden books and other items also will be for sale. Experts will be available to answer questions.

Lyon Arboretum
Spring Plant Sale

Place: Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall
Date: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. tomorrow
Admission: Free
Call: 988-0464

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