In 2003, NTBG began an ambitious restoration of the beach and adjacent coastal forest in the Allerton Garden, an area known as Lāwa‘i-kai. The project’s first goal was to remove the alien grasses from the beach strand, which had crowded out most native strand plants and hardened the beach’s substrate so that the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu had stopped nesting there. Among the challenges were to create a vegetation barrier to alleviate the effects of marine over wash (the buildings on the site had been damaged previously by a tsunami and two hurricanes) and to create a stable habitat for a wide array of highly endangered endemic plants after removal of alien plants.
A plan was developed that addressed these requirements and deliberately followed fossil and historical evidence to design a vegetative landscape intended to replicate the kind of plant assemblage that would have existed on the site about a millennium ago – shortly after Polynesian arrival. Evidence from excavations at a nearby cave, as well as 6,000-year sediment cores from the area’s own estuary and a dozen other paleoecological and archaeobotanical sites around Kaua‘i, were combined with present and historical records for plants to generate a very long species list. Many of those plants, including rare palms, trees, and shrubs endemic to the island, now thrive on the three-acre restoration.