Propagation saves rare endangered species from extinction in Hawaiʻi

Good News Notes:

A species of plant declared extinct in the wild on Kahoʻolawe in 2015, has found new life thanks to seeds collected and propagated by experts at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

UH reports that Ka palupalu o Kanaloa (Kanaloa kahoolawensis) is one of 10 most critically endangered plants and animals in the world to be impacted by climate change, according to a December 2021 report by the Endangered Species Coalition.

Ka palupalu o Kanaloa is described as a densely branched shrub with thin oval leaves and produces large clusters of small white flowers. The plant was historically found to grow on the rocky cliffs of Kahoʻolawe, but fossilized pollen from the species has been found on Oʻahu, Maui, and Kauaʻi, according to UH.

Two Ka palupalu o Kanaloa plants were discovered in 1992 growing on a sea stack off the coast of Kahoʻolawe, and seeds were collected from them before they died six years ago.

Conservation efforts through propagation to save Ka palupalu o Kanaloa were led by Doug Okamoto, a greenhouse technician with UH Mānoa’s Lyon Arboretum, and Anna Palomino from UH Mānoa’s Center for Conservation Research and Training. Palomino is also a Department of Land and Natural Resources Department of Forestry and Wildlife and Plant Extinction Prevention Program horticulturist.

According to UH, Palomino was able to germinate and grow seedlings, a first for Ka palupalu o Kanaloa in 24 years. Okamoto became the first person ever to produce rooted cuttings of Ka palupalu o Kanaloa.

Through the efforts of Palomino and Okamoto, there are now 23 plants resulting from hand pollination that are growing and producing seeds. For now, the species will live outside of their native habitat which researchers say “is being greatly affected by climate change.”…

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