Micropropagation Laboratory – Hawaiian Rare Plant Program

Micropropagation Lab

Rare plants growing in the Micropropagation Lab

Micropropagation is an indispensable tool in plant recovery work, especially in the case of immature seeds, extremely rare taxa, or unhealthy plant stock. In vitro storage is considered a medium-term storage method, high maintenance, but is capable of growing living plant tissue in large numbers under a disease-free, climate controlled environment. While much of the focus of the Micropropagation Lab is on propagating plants for active conservation, we also continually conduct research to develop new, and/or improve existing methodologies for the initiation and maintenance of in vitro living plant collections.


Lobelia monostachya

Lobelia monostachya in hydroculture

To date, the Micropropagation Lab has successfully grown approximately 300 of the 1400+ Hawaiian plant taxa using micropropagation techniques, of which 136 are federally listed as endangered or threatened. Currently, the lab has a total inventory of 23,954 plants consisting of 232 native plant taxa at various stages of propagation in the lab. Of these, 146 (62.9%) are federally listed as Endangered, 21 (9.1%) Species of Concern,  (1%) Threatened, and 8 (3.4%) Candidate. In the last 2 years, over 2000 plants have been sent out of the micropropagation and greenhouse facility for restoration purposes


Lysimachia maxima

lehua makanoe (Lysimachia maxima) in tissue culture

Research areas include developing and modifying protocols for maintenance of existing in vitro collections. Additionally, due to the uniqueness of Hawai‘i’s native species and the lack of existing propagation references, culture conditions must be individually determined for each new submission that enters the program. In vitro grown plants also generally require an acclimatization “transition” stage before they can be grown normally under greenhouse and outdoor conditions, and we are developing new methodologies to improve success rates with this transition. Research in the Micropropagation Lab facilitates preservation of genetic diversity and provides propagules for conservation and restoration efforts statewide.