Native and Hawaiian-introduced plants at UH Mānoa; the line indicates one path of exploration.
Everyone that's come to the Hawaiian Islands — plants included — has had to cross vast ocean distances to do so. Without help from ships and planes this was much more difficult, although many of the ancestors of the native Hawaiian plants did fly here, carried by birds one way or another. Over the long evolutionary eons, it was much easier for ancestral plants to speciate into different niches than it was for new plants to get here, so most of the native Hawaiian species evolved here and are endemic to the islands (occurring nowhere else in the world). The ancestors that did arrive found a plants' paradise, with no large herbivorous mammals to eat their leaves or trample their roots, and in the process of natural selection most new species lost defensive mechanisms. Unfortunately, this means they became quite vulnerable when mammals were later introduced by humans. Hawaiian plants are often rare, unique, and imperiled, which makes them important not only for the interest they hold, but also for their conservation.
UH Mānoa values growing native plants in the campus landscape for several reasons:
- to highlight the beauty and diversity of our native flora
- to help people learn to identify native plant speces
- to provide an outdoor, living laboratory for teaching and research
- to support the UH mission of being a "Hawaiian place of learning"
- to promote the conservation and protection of our native flora
- to promote environmentally sound landscape management
- to provide examples of ways to landscape with native plants