Dr. William Hillebrand, Queen's first physician, was also a noted botanist. He was keenly interested in rare trees and exotic plants and introduced many new species to Hawai’i. Queen Emma took special interest in creating beautiful gardens on the hospital grounds, and together with Dr. Hillebrand, she changed the barren acres into an oasis.
Today, many of the original trees still flourish on the grounds and are designated as historical landmarks. Many are protected by the state and can be pruned only under the supervision of the Hawai’i State Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Baobab is native to Africa and is nicknamed "the dead rat tree" because its seed pods, which hang from its branches, resemble rats hanging by their tails. It is sometimes called "the upside-down tree" as well, because of its massive out-sized trunk. This specimen is one of the largest in the United States.
The rare pink and white Bombax trees are a delight in spring, when their bare branches burst forth with silk-like tassels of color, followed by the emergence of leaves after the flowers fall. It is also known in Hawai’i as "the Queen's flower" because it was a favorite of Queen Emma. Queen's pink Bombax is an original planting by Dr. Hillebrand from stock he found in India.
This spectacular tree is a native of India. Its huge five-lobed leaves are very popular for use in dried flower arrangements. The seed pods are to be avoided, for they consist of needle-like fibers that are extremely painful to the unwary collector. Queen's Nawa is the largest of its kind in the United States.
Multi-functional is the word for the Kapok tree. Found around the world, its bark is medicinal, the seeds produce oil for oleomargarine and soap, the wood is used for boxes and the pods produce a floss long used as pillow stuffing before artificial fibers were perfected. Queen's Kapok tree is over 125 years old and stands four stories tall.
Symbol of the tropics, the palm is not a true tree, but a plant with a long stem and crown of fronds. It is one of the most utilized plants in the tropics, and a variety of uses for its oil, shell, husk fibers, leaves, meat and liquid from its "nuts," have made it a valuable asset. Trimming coconuts before they are mature has become a necessity in many areas where the falling fruit might be a hazard to strollers.
This spectacular ornamental has its origins in Java and Sumatra, but its beauty is enjoyed all around O’ahu. The cascades of pink-gold-cream-peach-colored blossoms spring to life along city streets in the early summer. One special tree stands on the Queen's campus as a tribute to Emma.