As you drive through the entrance to the Grand Naniloa Hotel, take a look at the landscaping. Some of the plants which grace the 72 acres were growing before the foundations of the current buildings were laid! Many of the plants in the landscaping are native to the Hawaiian Islands, or were brought by the early Polynesian settlers.
At the entrance to the Naniloa, beside the monoliths, grow ʻape [AH-peh], Alocasia macrorrhizos. Introduced by the early Polynesian settlers, the ʻape was traditionally planted at gateways. They stand vigilent and upright, like a guardian warrior, and the irritating sap of the leaves is said to ward off evil spirits. It also could be cooked and eaten during time of famine.
At the bases of the monolits is ʻuala, [oo-WAH-lah], Ipomoea batatas, the sweet potato. This delicious and nutritious plant is valuable for its tuber, and for its young greens, which can be cooked like spinach. Related to morning glory, it is a beautiful ground cover, can climb a trellis, and bears lovely violet miniature morning glory-like blooms.
The Naniloa is currently working with Hawaiian cultural practitioners to create a Hawaiian ethnobotanical garden where people can come to learn about Hawaiian plants and even harvest to make lei and other items needed for hula and Hawaiian ceremonies.
A variety of tropical plants from around the world are displayed on the grounds of the Naniloa. The collection includes giant white bird-o-paradise, agave, many varieties of ornamental gingers, false kamani, fish poison tree, plumeria, papaya, and many others.
Ariel photographs taken in 1960 show the coconut palms on the ma kai (oceanward) side of the hotel already were fully grown. That means the tallest of these graceful trees are now at least 70 years old.