The Cactus Garden at Kapiolani Community College is one of Honolulu’s hidden utopias. Whether we’re dodging Japanese tourists at the Saturday farmers market (reusable tote and Nalo greens in tow), going for an evening run around Diamond Head, or sprinting to our next class, we'd all be better off taking a minute to appreciate the beauty of this incredible space.
With paths weaving through the prickly paradise, it’s easy to get an up close perspective on each plant. Just remember to watch your step and leave your heels at home, this is not the place to take a fall.
Kapiolani Community College 1988-1989 Source: memory.hawaii.edu/object/io_1195535765824.html
You’d be surprised to know that twenty five years ago, the sea of towering cacti looked like this.
Bill Jones and Moriso Teraoka at KCC 1989
It was Moriso Teraoka that created the cacti paradise that exists today. In 1924, in the small town of Wainaku, Moriso was born. By 1988, he found himself living in Kalihi with a backyard overflowing with cacti and succulents. At the time, he was taking classes at Kapiolani Community College, constantly walking the school grounds, overrun with “weeds and ice plants.” It was during those walks that he decided to take on the massive project of the Cactus Garden.
With the help of his friend, Bill Jones, Moriso was given permission to clear and landscape the area at no cost to the school. “By the end of the first year, the once barren site began to look like a garden with raised beds planted with cactus and succulents. I emptied my backyard in Kalihi and brought all of my plants to KCC,” said Moriso in his autobiography: My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will.
With the exception of the occasional doctor’s appointment, now ninety-one year old Moriso continues to tend to his ever-expanding garden six days a week! If you find yourself near KCC in the mornings, chances are, you’ll see Mr. Teraoka.
Tips For Visiting the KCC Cactus Garden:
- At the top of the garden, keep an eye out for Mr. Teraoka’s “Po-e-tree.” Visitors can write poems that will later be laminated and hung next to poems from around the world (Cambodia, Myanmar, New Zealand… just to name a few).
- Tempted to snip a little chunk off your favorite succulent? Wait! Cuttings can be obtained by following directions on nearby signs.
- Saturdays can be crazy with the farmers market- if you're looking for some tranquility, plan your visit for a weekday or in the evening.
Story and photos by Kenna Reed