Garden buys Nabors’ land
on Maui for $4.7 million

By Diana Leone

A Maui garden that encompasses Pi'ilanihale Heiau and the world's largest living collection of breadfruit will more than triple in size with the purchase of adjacent land from actor and singer Jim Nabors.


The 123-acre Kahanu Garden, just west of Hana, gains 341 acres in the $4.7 million transaction while allowing Nabors to continue to live in and use three houses on the property.

Nabors said the arrangement pleases him because it ensures that the land will be protected from development.

"It's really what I wanted to happen," he said yesterday from Hana.

Kahanu Garden is one of five gardens of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, which has three gardens and its headquarters on Kauai, and one garden in Coconut Grove, Fla.

The privately funded, nonprofit has a congressional mandate to advance scientific research, public education and plant conservation.

Paul Cox, director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said the purchase stretches his organization financially but was "very important to protect the view planes (from the heiau) to the ocean" and "allows us to increase our focus on ethnobotany" -- the study of plants used by humans.

Plans for expanding Kahanu Garden include adding other Polynesian subsistence crops, such as sweet potatoes, more awa varieties, ti plants and taro, Cox said.

There also is the possibility of adding a section of pandanus (hala) varieties from around the Pacific. The Nabors acreage "has the best natural hala forest in the entire world," Cox said, and about 200 acres under macadamia cultivation.

"Hana is the perfect place to grow these things," Cox said. "It could be the world's premier native Hawaiian ethnobotanical garden."

The Pi'ilanihale Heiau, which is believed to be the oldest and largest such structure constructed in all of ancient Polynesia, has undergone extensive restoration and is both a National Historic Landmark (1964) and on the National Register of Historic Places (1987).

Eventually, a visitor center, educational facilities and perhaps even some modest housing for research scientists could be built at Kahanu Garden.

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