Plants considered for ESA protection

LIHUE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing nine plant species from Kauai under the Endangered Species Act.

The USFWS recently released a yearly status appraisal of plants and animals that are candidates for ESA protection. A total of 22 plant species from Hawaii are on the list.

David Lorence, National Tropical Botanical Garden director of science and conservation, said being listed as candidates has the benefit of bringing plants to the attention of the conservation and scientific communities, as well as the general public, so they may become the focus of conservation efforts.

“It is significant that nine of the 22 candidate plant species are from Kauai,” he said.

All the Kauai candidate species are under threat from habitat loss, competition from invasive plant and animal species, or landslides, and are in urgent need of protection, Lorence said.

There are 146 species recognized by USFWS as candidates for ESA protection, according to the release. With the addition of this year’s candidate species, there are now 34 candidate species in the Pacific Islands (29 for Hawaii and five for American Samoa).

The nine plant species on Kauai are:

– Kadua haupuensis, a member of the coffee family. The small shrub with fragrant flowers was first collected on Mount Haupu in 1998 and named by NTBG and Smithsonian botanists in 2009. Known only from a single population that was obliterated by a landslide, it is thought to be extinct in the wild. However, it is easily propagated and is grown at NTBG’s McBryde Garden.

– Lepidium orbiculare, a small shrubby member of the mustard family, known only from cliffs in the Haupu Mountain range. It is cultivated at NTBG.

– Phyllostegia helleri, a perennial herb with white flowers belonging to the mint family. Only a single population is known from the back of Wainiha Valley. Many other species in this Hawaiian endemic genus are in serious decline.

– Santalum involutum, a small tree in the sandalwood genus that is restricted to a few populations along the Na Pali Coast.

– Sicyos lanceoloideus, a rare vine in the cucumber family with small white flowers and green fruits, known from the Kauai’s Kalalau Valley and Waimea Canyon, as well as the Waianae Mountains of Oahu.

– Wikstromoemia skottsbergiana, a shrub related to the akia (traditionally used by Hawaiians as a fish poison plant), known only from scattered individuals in Wahiawa Mountains, Hanalei and Kauhao Valleys.

– Asplenium diellaciniatum, an attractive spleenwort fern that belongs to the rare “Diellia” group found only in Hawaii. It was first collected in the 1800s and named in 1888, but not seen for many years until two populations were rediscovered in Kawai’iki Valley by NTBG staff and a fern researcher from Estonia.

– Dryopteris glabra var. pusilla, a dainty little woodfern that grows only on stream banks in drainages of the Alakai wilderness area and Kokee region, where it is known from perhaps a half dozen populations.

– Labordia lorenciana, an extremely rare shrub.


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