Music To Mother Nature’s Ears

National Tropical Botanical Garden’s committee chairwoman Donna Wilcox, director of South Shore Gardens Tobias Koehler, and CEO and director Janet Mayfield in the lush greenery.

National Tropical Botanical Garden’s annual Moonlight & Music Fundraiser takes place Aug. 17, and guests are invited to party for a purpose while raising money for the nonprofit’s sustainability and conservation work.

On Saturday, Aug. 17, from 6 to 10 p.m., National Tropical Botanical Garden hosts its annual Moonlight & Music Fundraiser in the McBryde Garden on Kaua‘i’s South Shore.

For the past 12 years, the event has provided a unique opportunity for members of the community to enjoy a night of amazing food, drinks and dancing under a full, summer moon in one of the world’s most beautiful tropical botanical gardens.

“This is a really special event,” says CEO and director Janet Mayfield. “We especially love sharing McBryde Garden with our guests at night, under the full moon, in a festive atmosphere. It is a different kind of garden experience and you can only enjoy this rare opportunity once a year.”

McBryde Garden will play host to this year’s Moonlight & Music Fundraiser, slated for 6-10 p.m. Aug. 17. PHOTO COURTESY NTBG

Yet, beyond an evening of fun and merriment, behind the scenic views and lush tropical foliage, sits the greater cause of this organization. NTBG serves as a significant entity on a global scale.

The organization does vital conservation, research and educational work not just in its five gardens and five preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida, but also with partners around the world.

“We are known internationally, but there are still people on the island who don’t know who we are or what we do,” adds Mayfield.

Limahuli Garden & Preserve (above) PHOTOS COURTESY NTBG

In 1964, Congress enacted a charter establishing National Tropical Botanical Garden. Today, the non-governmental, not-for-profit organization remains the only tropical botanical garden with a U.S. congressional charter.

“When people ask me why our work is important, I usually just ask them if they like food, air, shelter and clothing,” Mayfield says. “Most people say yes.

“I remind them that as humans on this small, fragile planet, nearly everything we do, from the moment we get out of our cotton bed sheets to the food we eat, to the homes we inhabit, to the air we breathe, to all that we love and cherish about this planet, is made possible by plants. Plants are the most critical resource for preserving life on this planet. Without plants, we are nothing. That is why our work is important. We save plants, and in doing so, we save people.”

According to Mayfield, studies warn that the decline of biodiversity and ecosystems is rapidly accelerating.

McBryde Garden

“Make no mistake,” she says. “The Earth is in crisis. Plant and animal extinction caused by climate change, pollution and environmental degradation are serious threats to our most fundamental natural systems.”

NTBG knows all too well the destruction that can occur when the planet’s natural systems go awry, as its Limahuli Garden on the North Shore was one of the places affected by last year’s excessive rain. The historic flooding closed access to Limahuli Garden & Preserve and damaged infrastructure, trails and plant collections.

“People were dealt a very rough, raw taste of the terrible things that climate change or extreme weather events can do not just to Kaua‘i, but anywhere in the world,” Mayfield adds.

In the 13-plus months since, NTBG has worked tirelessly to improve its infrastructure, making the garden better and more robust. To that end, Limahuli Garden reopened this past June.

“There’s a kind of connection among people on every part of the island and from a wide range of smaller communities who help and support one another,” says

Mayfield, “We’ve seen that in times of hardship — like after Hurricane ‘Iniki and the rains and floods of last year — and we see it during good times, too. Community is key, not just for this annual event, but for making the garden a successful organization going into our 55th year.”

NTBG’s Moonlight & Music Fundraiser, then, is an annual reminder not only of the beauty of the McBryde Garden, but also that there is work to be done.

“Our work is vast and requires funding,” Mayfield says.

The musical event supports a wide range of programs and initiatives as NTBG’s core mission is to enrich life through discovery, scientific research, conservation and education.

Programs supported by the fundraiser include everything from plant conservation and seed banking to promoting sustainable agriculture. The education program is also supported in part by the fundraiser, as the organization regularly collaborates with educators, scientists, cultural practitioners, farmers and a multitude of people who are committed to helping curb the tide of extinction.

“If there is one thought I’d like everyone on Kaua‘i and beyond to know is that we are here doing vital work to protect plants and the greater natural world,” Mayfield adds. “The work is critical and very serious, but it also involves exciting discovery and extraordinary beauty. Our work may be happening quietly and out of view on a daily basis, but it is important to all of us.”

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