How green is my valley?

Lush foliage on the east side of the Big Island, Hawaii.
The north and east sides of the Big Island get more rain than the west – a lot more rain. Much of that area gets 100 inches and up. A good chunk of it gets more than 200 inches. By contrast, there are areas on the west coast that get less than 10 inches of rain a year. Two of the driest parts of the island are the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which also get less than 10 inches. That’s because they’re mostly up above the clouds.

The east side’s rain tends to be of the tropical variety – intense downpours that don’t necessarily last long. Several inches can fall in the space of half an hour. Flash floods are a threat all over the island. Those heavy rains falling up on the hills can channel down west side gullies.

Another result of all that rain is that the foliage is luxuriantly tropical: towering trees and shrubs, extravagantly large leaves, and vines with everything. This scene is on the coast near the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden north of Hilo.

For more information about Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, go to

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