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Maui Nui Botanical Gardens Director Wins Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award

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Tamara Sherrill, director of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, has won the Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award for 2016.

The award, which means to take care of the land, was presented on Saturday at the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals’ Lawn and Garden Fair at the Maui Mall.

From Left: Rob Parsons, Tamara Sherrill, Allison Wright, and Adam Radford present Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award at Maui Mall on Saturday. Photo Courtesy.

From Left: Rob Parsons, Tamara Sherrill, Allison Wright, and Adam Radford present Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award at Maui Mall on Saturday.
Photo Courtesy.

Sherrill is highly praised in the landscaping and conservation community for her passion and dedication to promoting the use of native plants and for her efforts to protect and propagate rare species of plants found outside Maui Nui Botanical Gardens’ gates.

Sherrill moved to Maui in 1994 and worked as a landscaper and market gardener in Kula. She began working with native plants when she took a landscaping position caring for plants on the Wailea Point Seawalk.


The North Carolina native learned of and joined the Native Hawaiian Plant Society while she was trimming naupaka and encountered a few native plant enthusiasts. After joining the club, she landed a position as the Nursery Manager and Curator at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens 14 years ago.

In 2006, Sherrill left the Gardens to complete her degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management at UH Mānoa and returned again in 2009.

As the Director of the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens she advocates for and educates the community about the use of native plants through popular plant giveaways, plant sales, and workshops on cordage, weaving, and dye making.


“This award is well-deserved,” said David Sakoda, Maui County Arborist. He has worked with Sherrill for many years on the annual Arbor Day tree giveaway, providing 1,000 native and Polynesian trees to the community. “She’s a pleasure to work with,” he said.

Maui Nui Plant Extinction Prevention Program Coordinator Hank Oppenheimer seconds that statement, citing Sherrill’s passion and determination. He said he entrusts Sherrill and her staff with the propagation of rare lowland and coastal plants for out planting back into the wild.

Sherrill has worked with Oppenheimer and Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons to protect an endangered species of dwarf naupaka found growing in only a few places on Maui. Negotiating access to the site has taken almost four years, and now volunteers with the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens’ Weed and Pot Club are controlling invasive species by stopping them from overtaking the rare plants.


The Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award is presented annually to recognize an individual or business working within the landscape or agricultural community to keep invasive species out of Maui County. The award is sponsored by the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, the County of Maui, and the Maui Invasive Species Committee.


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