story by Ashley Stepanek
photo by Dana Edmunds
The water lily is the crown jewel of the pool, a proverbial water goddess prized through the centuries as a symbol of femininity and an icon of purity. But for all its grace, it is hardly ethereal: The flower is resilient enough to survive even freezing cold water, and it has an ancient lineage— one variety, the blue lotus, dates back 160 million years. This is also a plant that gets around: Water lilies have grown all over the planet since before the Ice Age. And now they have arrived in Ha‘iku, Maui.
At the Maui Water Lily Farm in the Valley Isle’s upcountry, these ray-cupped wonders are raised to do what they do best: bloom and float. Three working ponds decorate the farm’s 1.6-acre terraced landscapes holding dozens of flowering plants at any given time. The farm’s flowers can also be glimpsed in the ponds of several hotels fronting Maui’s western and southern shores, including the Four Seasons Wailea and the Kapalua Bay Hotel. There, water lilies bloom year-round due to the careful maintenance of farm partners Manu Bouvet, Carine Camboulives and Sam Lareau, a trio who met serendipitously ten years ago and thousands of miles away on Cape Verde, an archipelago off the coast of Senegal. Bouvet and Camboulives, French windsurfing professionals (and husband and wife), were there to compete on the circuit; Lareau, a native of Geneva who’d arrived in Cape Verde via the Canary Islands, was tending bar. He was convinced to move to Maui after a stint in Indonesia, and the three launched the farm after apprenticing with Richard Rice, a whiz who spent fifteen years perfecting water lily cultivation in Mexico.
Tours of the farm are available by appointment; call in advance.
Maui Water Lily Farm