Hawaiian Rare Plant Program

Mission of the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program:
To aid in the prevention of further extinction of Hawaiian plant species by initiating and maintaining an in vitro plant and seed bank collection, and propagating plants for use in approved restoration and reintroduction projects.

Lyon Arboretum’s research and education emphasis on conservation biology and its strong horticultural specialization has led to the development of the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program, which is comprised of 3 storage and propagation facilities; a Micropropagation Laboratory, Seed Conservation Laboratory, and Rare Plant Greenhouse.

Since 1992, the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program (HRPP) has focused on the rescue and recovery of Hawai’i’s most critically endangered native plants, such as the native taxa that have 50 or fewer representatives left in the wild.  The Hawaiian Rare Plant Program serves as an ex situ plant and seed germplasm repository, propagation, and distribution site for plant propagators, land managers, and other end users who do not possess the resources to store and propagate their Hawaiian endemic plants that are in jeopardy on their premises.

The Hawaiian Rare Plant Program is also able to maintain viable plant germplasm for an indefinite period of time for future research or use in restoration sites.  Due to its location, unique propagative methodology and affiliations, the program is Hawai‘i’s largest and most diverse collection of Hawaiian plant taxa. To date, the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program micropropagation laboratory has successfully grown approximately 300 of the 1400 known Hawaiian plant taxa using micropropagation techniques, of which 136 are federally listed as endangered or threatened.  Currently, there are >30,000 plants comprised of 200+ native plant taxa inventoried within the in vitro germplasm collection and greenhouse, over 70% of which are federally listed as threatened or endangered. In the seed storage facility, over 22 million seeds are banked from over 9000 accessions. These accessions represent more than 600 taxa or over 40% of the native Hawaiian flora. Of these, about half are federally listed as threatened or endangered. In 2016, the Seed Conservation Lab also launched the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Seed Banking Initiative to collect and bank seeds of ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros species) statewide during the ROD crisis, for future reforestation.

Learn more about our two laboratories by clicking on the links below:

Seed Conservation Laboratory

Micropropagation Laboratory

Read more about the Rare Plant Program in the Four Seasons Magazine

Image source: Four Seasons Magazine