Breaking Ground: Lyon’s New Hawaiian Rare Plant Program Facility

Published on June 7, 2016 under Lyon News
Breaking Ground: Lyon’s New Hawaiian Rare Plant Program Facility

Lyon Arboretum is excited to announce that the replacement of an older building (the former “Cottage C”) has finally begun, and will eventually make way for the construction of the new Hawaiian Rare Plant Program (HRPP) Micropropagation Facility.  The HRPP Ground Breaking event was held this past weekend on June 4, 2016, after almost 5 years of fundraising and planning.

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Kumu Sam ‘Ohu Gon III leads the Ground breakers at the Ground breaking ceremony.

The construction of the new, 4,081ft2 Hawaiian Rare Plant Program Micropropagation Facility was funded by the Hau`oli Mau Loa Foundation, Chamberlin Foundation, Cooke Foundation and other private donors, the State of Hawai‘i, and the University of Hawai‘i.  The new facility will double the growing space and significantly improve the lab facilities, as well as provide greater public access and viewing of this unique program.  The design of the new laboratory allows for non-obtrusive public viewing into the research facility through strategically positioned windows along a covered, external corridor.

Visually engaging interpretive signage, inclusive for all age groups and garden visitors, will be installed and vividly portray the ongoing plant conservation efforts occurring at Lyon and throughout Hawai‘i.   The new native planting display to be constructed  will serve as a visual backdrop that exemplifies the plight of Hawai‘i’s native plants as well as provide an interpretative venue which will hopefully encourage critical thinking, discussion, and actionable outcomes necessary to understand the complexities of Hawaiian plant conservation and ecosystems.  The displays will also describe the value and functional roles of the HRPP and the various Hawaiian conservation units and organizations, which work together as a networked group, for the purpose of furthering Hawai‘i’s statewide plant conservation efforts.

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Since 1992, Lyon Arboretum’s research emphasis on conservation biology and horticultural specialization has led to the development of its Hawaiian Rare Plant Program, which has become a critical component in preventing the extinction of some of the most highly endangered Hawaiian plant species.  Completion of a new facility will further increase their mission, which focuses on the rescue and recovery of Hawai‘i’s most critically endangered native plants through the use of an alternative 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 who do not possess the resources to store and propagate their Hawaiian endemic plants that are in jeopardy on their premises.

HRPP is the only laboratory of its kind in Hawai‘i, and holds one of the largest collections of in vitro- stored native Hawaiian plants in the nation.  Also, HRPP is 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 houses Hawai`i’s largest and most diverse collection of Hawaiian plant taxa.  HRPP’s in vitro and seed germplasm bank is routinely augmented by plant materials in the form of seeds or cuttings of the various plant species, which entails multi-island field collections gathering by professional field biologists

Future Goals                                                                                                                                                               

Numerous Hawaiian plant species have gone extinct in the wild or have been reduced to only a handful of naturally occurring individuals. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Lyon Arboretum’s HRPP and a statewide network of cooperating rare plant facilities, many of these species have been saved from complete extinction and now exist as captive populations. With the improved and expanded facility, the HRPP can continue to focus on the task of receiving and maintaining rare plant germplasm for storage, propagation and eventual restoration of Hawaii’s native plants in jeopardy, as needs are becoming more urgent as wild populations continue to decline.


For more on the Hawaii Rare Plant Program, please visit our website. Any questions or concerns regarding the construction project or accessibility to the arboretum may be directed to our Main Office at 808-988-0456.