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stand of rainbow eucalyptus trees in Maui, Hawai'i. Tree bark is blue, green, red and gray.

By Mar

I first traveled to the Hawai’ian Islands when I was seven years old. It was the first time I had a say in the family trip destination and my then obsession with the movie Lilo and Stitch prompted me to beg my parents to visit Hawai’i. Luckily enough my parents loved the idea and quickly booked a cruise around the main islands. We immediately fell in love.

Although I was so young and most of the trip is now a blur, I very vividly remember seeing my first Eucalyptus deglupta, more commonly known as the rainbow eucalyptus. We were walking through an arboretum on the Garden Isle of Kauai when we came across what seemed like an enchanted forest -- that’s the only way I can explain it. I was speechless. We were surrounded by trees taller than 100 feet and as colorful as one could imagine. The tree trunks resembled a painter’s palette, full of strokes of purples, yellows, and oranges! The beauty of these trees was overpowering and other-wordly, truly making me feel like the storybook fairy Tinkerbell. These trees were the highlight of my trip and they were all I talked about when asked about Hawai’i upon my homecoming.

Bark and plant label at the Garden of Eden Keanae, Maui, Hawai'i.

The second time I came to Hawai’i was when I was 15 years old, now much more adventurous and with a real list of things to do! It’s safe to say the top of my list was Maui’s rainbow eucalyptus forest. Again, I was completely taken aback by the immensity and majesty of these trees. That feeling of being a fairy came right back to me and I felt even more connected to the trees. All their different and vibrant colored patterns gave them a certain character and life that cannot be put into words. On this trip I officially declared the rainbow eucalyptus as my favorite tree and made it very clear to my family that when I die, I want a rainbow eucalyptus planted in my name.

Three years later, when I was 18, I moved to the island of Oahu for school. I lived on Oahu for a year and frequently visited the rainbow eucalyptus trees planted in front of the Dole Plantation on the North Shore. Sometimes I’d sit under them and do homework, other times for a picnic, and occasionally for a nap in the shade. This became my safe space and a little vortex of sorts. Here, I felt like I was on another planet.

With a heavy heart I ended up moving home for a year, dreaming of returning to the islands as soon as I graduated college. However, as crazy as it sounds, 2020 brought me a wonderful serendipity. I had booked a trip to Oahu for the summer 2020 to visit my friends and was lucky enough to not have it ruined by the pandemic. Somehow, six weeks turned into six months. Now, six months is turning into one year, and we’ll see just how long I can stay on this beautiful rock! I’ve been going back to my little eucalyptus vortex almost every week.

As you can imagine, there are a million reasons why one would want to live in Hawai’i, but these trees are undoubtedly a big part of what keeps bringing me back. In my dreams, I have a farm on the North Shore of Kauai with my very own rainbow eucalyptus forest to get lost in whenever I want. Until then, I’ll continue to claim my spot in front of the Dole Plantation and admire these giants all day long. And as people say, “count your blessings,” I like to say, “count your rainbows,” as rainbows and these trees remind me of just how magical this Earth really is.


Mar is 20 and lives on Oahu, Hawai'i.

Photo Credits: (top) Janine Sprout, CC BY 4.0

<>, via Wikimedia Commons; (bottom) Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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By Jessica Ullyott

A cluster of plumeria flowers. The flowers have 5 petals which are bright pink, with orange bases.

A plant possessing all the qualities of tropical romance, peace and beauty makes a 2,500 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean. In the summer of 1981, my in-laws were celebrating their honeymoon on The Big Island of Hawaii. To commemorate these happy memories they brought back a souvenir. A cutting of a plumeria plant they bought at a shop. They would go on to plant this small cutting in the backyard of their first house and over time it grew to an enormous tree. Wherever they moved, they would take cuttings from the original and plant it at their new home until eventually they gave my husband and me a cutting to plant at our first home.

I was never someone who was very fond of plumerias, but soon began to hear about groups of enthusiasts who share a deep love for them such as the Southern California Plumeria Society. During my first year as a plumeria parent, I thought I had killed it because all the leaves had fallen off. I quickly started asking questions to my newfound community, who calmly explained to me that this was a natural process during the winter months and in the spring I was happy to see new green sprouts popping out of the seemingly dead branches and brilliant pink flowers following a few months later. I was also surprised to find out that they are native to Central and South America. Because they are such robust plants, they thrive in many environments including tropical Hawaii.

Unfortunately, my mother-in-law suffered a life-threatening stroke on Memorial Day and was airlifted to a hospital for an emergency surgery. Though she survived, she suffered severe brain damage and is struggling to adjust to her new normal. Right now my plumeria is blooming with lovely flowers that are attracting every type of pollinator and filling my yard with life. I have always loved to tell this story of a plant that has represented such a beautiful love story, though now it also reminds me of times shared with a very special person—a woman who raised my amazing husband, loved my children and continues to fight through a difficult time. This plant will endure and continue to tell our story into the future.

Jessica Ullyott is a wife and mother of two currently residing in San Diego, California. She is also a graduate student studying biology at Miami University in Ohio in partnership with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

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by Snehanjana Chatterjee

Plants from Snehanjana's mother's garden

When my grandfather planted our coconut tree in our backyard, it didn’t mean much to us. Later on, it became a symbol of strength for our family that overcame numerous cyclones and storms over the years.

My mother was the one and only influence in our family who was attached to both plants and kids. Born and brought up in a rural area, my mother’s family had cows and poultry animals. Naturally, she was more empathetic towards our environment but especially towards plants. After her marriage to my father, she started a primary school in our house for underprivileged children. She always saw the innocence in kids and compared them to flowers. The only thing that could uplift her mood everyday were her school students and her garden.

Following her footsteps, I started gardening recently and to be honest, it has been a really enriching experience. You see a new leaf sprouting and it’s like seeing a baby taking it’s first steps. The only thought that comes to my mind is “Oh my god! It’s alive and I didn’t kill it.”

I have added several (at least 50) plants to my collection- from money plant, fish bone, snake plant to Monstera. I also joined the millennial gang of Instagrammers who guide others on how to keep their indoor plants free from insects/ pests. For example- One reel on Instagram showed how instead of watering your plants everyday, you can poke the soil with a stick to make it more breathable, or you can clean the leaves of the plant with Neem (Azadirachta indica) oil to keep the insects away.

This has changed the game for millennials or Gen- Z people who want to try out their luck at gardening. It’s not only about the environment anymore, it’s about having an aesthetic to your house. More and more people are filling up their living rooms with plant pots. You will find more people adding “Plant parent” to their Twitter or Instagram bio. Indoor plants not only bring peace and comfort in your home but also cools down your room temperature. So if you’re still not part of this gardening revolution, what are you waiting for?

Snehanjana is 26 years old and lives in Calcutta, India. She is a student. Follow Snehanjana on twitter @SnehanjanaC.

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