The “walking plant encyclopedia,” a.k.a. Richard Criley of the Dept. of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences (emeritus), was the featured guest on Hawaiʻi Public Radio’s The Conversation recently.
With host Lilian Tsang, who met Richard for a walk-through at Waimānalo Research Station, the interview began with a bit of history of Waimānalo and the heritage cultivars created in the 1950s by Bill Moragne on Kauaʻi. Richard then showed her how plumerias might be bred and what the goals would be, and what the seed pods look like. He extolled the advantages of CTAHR’s species collection (used by PhD candidate Kauahi Perez for her dissertation) because of rust resistance and evergreen foliage.
“Lilian was impressed by the great variety of plumerias on display,” says Richard. “We sniffed all the flowers for different fragrances. In the end, she liked the fragrance of San Germain plumeria the best.”
He adds with a smile, “But when she asked how plumerias are normally pollinated, I said that bees are too big to get into the working parts, which have no pollen or nectar for them. Then I made some comment about ‘stupid bees’ trying anyway, and that led to the host of the show repeating the stupid bee remark at the end of the segment. I'm a bit embarrassed about that!”
By coincidence, Richard was asked to give a talk on plumeria to the residents of The Plaza, a senior living facility. The talk was set up by Ted Chinn, who established CTAHR’s plumeria collection at Waimanalo.
Read and Listen to the full HPR interview.