Recently, the Lyon Arboretum Micropropagation Lab, Lyon Arboretum Seed Storage Lab, Pahole Rare Plant Facility, O`ahu Plant Extinction Prevention Program (OPEPP), and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR DOFAW), and volunteers were able to re-introduce a Native Hawaiian Hāhā, Cyanea grimesiana (subspecies grimesiana), to the State’s Mānoa Cliffs Restoration Site within the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve.
This Hāhā is a member of the Bellflower family (Campanulaceae) and has only ever been known from a small number of individuals in the mesic forests of the leeward Southern Ko`olau Mountains of O`ahu where it was often found growing with koa (Acacia koa), kopiko (Psychotria mariniana), lama (Diospyros sandwicensis), and halapepe (Pleomele halapepe). These plants grow up to 2 meters tall and have highly divided leaves with small, slightly dull, prickles. The flowers are purple and white and curved to match the shape of a native Hawaiian Honeycreeper’s beak. When the flowers are fully open a small amount of sweet nectar is produced, a reward for pollinating the flowers. Sister species occur in the Wai`anae Mountains of O`ahu and on Moloka`i. All are extremely rare and highly threatened by feral ungulates, invasive weeds, and non-native slugs.
In 2004, OPEP was able to collect fruit from the last two individuals just before both plants died, leaving this species extinct in the wild. The fruit were taken to the Lyon Micropropagation lab and many individuals were propagated and cloned to prevent this species from blinking out. Once secure in the lab, the Pahole Rare Plant Facility was able to grow several large plants to be returned to the wild. This reintroduction marks an important step in preserving this uniquely Hawaiian species. This was truly a joint effort between several conservation partners who each play a significant role in preventing the extinction of rare plant species.
The Plant Extinction Prevention Program works to preserve the rarest of Hawaii’s amazing plant species. The Mānoa Cliffs Restoration Site is cared for by a dedicated volunteer group that meets weekly to care for the area (http://manoacliffreforestation.wordpress.com/the-project/).
This article originally appeared in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of The Kukui Leaf, the quarterly publication of the Lyon Arboretum (editors: Derek Higashi & Kristin Herrick). The Kukui Leaf is available online here: http://web41.its.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum/KukuiLeaf