Where Were the Ghosts of Allerton Garden?

The Ghosts of Allerton Garden were there, in the:

  • Spooky Setting:  T’was a full moonlit eve on the Garden Isle of Kauai 2016.  Garden volunteers gathered at dusk.  The lunar globe arose.  The flora began to glow in white and pale pastel, wafting cotton-candy fragrance. Spider lilies, mock orange, pua kenikeni, and a favorite of Chanel perfumeries, the Ylang Ylang scent.  Where were the ghosts of Allerton Garden?  Bwah hah hah.
  • Spooky Senses:  Smell and sound prevailed in the dusk.  Hummingbird moths, the ghosts of the Allerton Garden, darted…hovering and siphoning, on the lookout for sweet ‘n’ spicy tubular-shaped flowers.  Cane toads rattled love songs and exuded strings of black pearl garlands. Gone was the visual world of colour and distraction.  We watched our step on the path, yet wanted to look up: on the lookout for hummingbird moths.  A flicker, a trace, a glimmer: seeing ghosts in the half-light.

Spider lilies glow at night: a favorite blossom of Hawaiian Queen Emma, who resided in the valley.

  • Spooky Facts: Moths outnumber butterfly species, but because of their night shift, they tend to fly under the radar.  There are thousands of North American species.   Hawaii has over a thousand: many of them endemic, specially-adapted to the islands, as are 90% of Hawaii’s native plant species.

Host plant and moth go together: flower-to- mouth vs hand-to-glove as we walked on the Allerton side of the Allerton & McBryde Gardens, two of five National Tropical Botanical Gardens.  With three NTBG gardens on Kauai, one on Maui, and one in Florida– conservation, research and education are key.

Where were the ghosts of Allerton?  In the story-telling…especially of the ghostly variety.

Hummingbird moths or the White-lined sphinx hovers and siphons milkweed nectar. Photo credit to USFWS

  • Spooky poem:  ‘Garden Ghosts’

The full moon rises and

The moths know—fat and hairy

To sap-seek, the’r

Broad-antennae’d scent organs know

What I do not—

Staggering surreal amid

Pale blooms and heady perfumes—

Where dusk turns to musk.


Cane toads cast pond pearls in black egg garlands—

Rattling erotic’lly—g-g-g-listen!


Lichened statuettes don’t dab

Necks and wrists with

Chanel #5 Ylang-Ylang petals

(The Allertons left them au naturel.)

Moths lug pollen to

Pendula who honey-holler:

Long-tapered tongues wag & wag & wag;

Garden ghosts take leave…of our senses.

In Allerton Garden, near the fountain, water pulses to the tune of our heartbeats.

In the diminishing light, watch your step.

Queen Emma’s House with statuettes…what’s not to lichen?




Once the sun goes down, moths fly.** Author’s note:  In 2017, the NTBG discontinued the moonlit walk…until further notice.**




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