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This native plant is extinct in the wild, UH scientists are trying to revitalize it

ka palupalu o kanaloa.jpg
Zachary Wingert
UH News

The Ka palupalu o Kanaloa is a flowering shrub with large green leaves and small red leaves. If you have never seen or heard of it before, that’s because none exist in the wild.

Fossilized pollen grain samples have been found on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi, but in modern times they lived on the cliffs of Kahoʻolawe. Droughts and severe storms killed them all, according to an Endangered Species Coalition's report.

University of Hawaiʻi scientists led the initiative to gather seeds from the last wild Ka palupalu o Kanaloa before it died in 2015.

Doug Okamoto, a greenhouse technician with UH Mānoa’s Lyon Arboretum, and Anna Palomino from UH Mānoa’s Center for Conservation Research and Training played key roles in revitalizing the plant.

Okamoto is the first person to produce rooted cuttings of the Ka palupalu o Kanaloa.

Palomino grew the seedlings in plant nurseries, and grew the first Ka palupalu o Kanaloa since its extinction in the wild.

Today, there are two mature plants and 23 seedlings. They all live under a careful watch in conservation nurseries.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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