New Lyon Arboretum laboratory will expand Hawaiian plant conservation efforts

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kelli Abe Trifonovitch, (808) 228-8108
Director of Communications and Outreach, University of Hawai‘i System
Carl Evensen, (808) 988-0456
Interim Director, Lyon Arboretum
Posted: Jun 6, 2016

UH student worker Keoni Kikala in the micropropagation laboratory.
UH student worker Keoni Kikala in the micropropagation laboratory.

Link to video and sound (details below):

Ground has been broken for a new Hawaiian Rare Plant Program Micropropagation Laboratory at the UH Mānoa’s Lyon Arboretum.  The $2.5-million facility will expand the arboretum’s important efforts to store, propagate and eventually restore many of Hawai‘i’s native plants that are in jeopardy. 

Hawaiʻi is considered an “Endangered Species Hotspot,” with 416 federally endangered and threatened plants and approximately 300 in significant decline.  Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman and State Representative Issac Choy were among the dignitaries on hand on Saturday, June 4, 2016 to mark the occasion.  Bley-Vroman called the new lab “one of the most important bridges that we build from the University of Hawai‘i to the community.”

The construction of the 4,081-square-foot Hawaiian Rare Plant Program (HRPP) laboratory facilities will double the growing space, improve the lab facilities and provide greater public access to this unique program. The design of the new laboratory will allow for non-obtrusive public viewing into the research facility through strategically positioned windows along a covered, external corridor. In addition, a video monitor will provide viewers a deeper appreciation of the conservation practices and methodologies being used. Lyon Arboretum’s new laboratory is expected to be completed in 2017.

Since 1992, Lyon Arboretum’s research emphasis on conservation biology and horticultural specialization has led to the development of its Hawaiian Rare Plant Program (HRPP), focused on the rescue and recovery of Hawai‘i’s most critically endangered native plants through the use of a plant propagation technology called micropropagation, or tissue culture.

HRPP serves as a plant and seed germplasm repository, propagation and distribution site for state’s plant propagators, land managers and other end users.  HRPP is the only laboratory of its kind in Hawai‘i.  Due to its location, unique propagative methodology and affiliations, the program houses Hawaiʻi’s largest and most diverse collection of Hawaiian plants, with over 225 species in tissue culture and over 400 species stored in the seed bank.

About Lyon Arboretum

Situated in 193 acres of tropical rainforest on the island of O‘ahu, the University of Hawai‘i’s Lyon Arboretum is a permanent ex-situ repository for more than 5,000 living plant species, primarily from Hawai‘i and the sub-tropical and tropical areas of the world. The plant collections are diverse and include living specimens that range from common to extremely rare in their native habitat, as well as tropical ornamentals and economically and culturally important crop plants.  For more information, see

Link to video and sound:

7-shots: inside the micropropagation lab
1-shot: Current building exterior
1-shot: Site of new lab
2-shots: ground-breaking ceremony attendees
4-shots: Dr. Sam Gon chanting and blessing, audience cutaway, ʻoʻo sticks plunging into the soil


Keoni Kikala, Lyon Arboretum UH student worker (:11)
“A lot of these plants, we don’t know much about them and they could be cures, but weʻll never know because that’s how rare they are.”

Erin King, Lyon Arboretum UH student worker (:15)
“If you lose one species it’s going to be a ripple effect.  You are going to lose the bugs the birds, and all the other things that depend on this one native plant that might not seem important, but for all these other species, it’s very important.”

Nellie Sugii, Hawaiian Rare Plant Program Micropropagation Laboratory Director (:13)
“It really ensures that we can safeguard some of this germplasm for the future, when there are available sites for restoration.  That we can withdraw some of these plants and put them back into the wild.”

For more information, visit: