Rare, Endangered and Extinct
Plants of Kipahulu Valley

One little known fact about the Hawaiian islands is that because of its isolation, prior to human habitation, almost all the vegetation had evolved into unique species not found anywhere else on the planet. But with the first Hawaiians who came from Tahiti and even more so after the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain Cook, many new species were introduced which were invasive and overtook the endemic plants. In most cases the original plants became extinct. This is why it is so important to identify and protect those few remaining species that still exist.

The 50 mile Hana coast on the East side of Maui is a unique area of Hawaii. The village of Hana has a population of just 800 and the entire coast has only about 2000 people; you’ll find long sections on the back road with no human habitation at all. There is just one low rise hotel in the village of Hana and the narrow winding road has no stop signs or traffc lights for 100 miles.

Situated in the middle of this area is Kipahulu valley. Because of its remoteness, difficult access and the fact that it isn’t highlighted on any of the tourist maps or guidebooks, few people go into the valley. However, local residents have discovered a few rare and endangered plants and even plants designated to be extinct growing in the valley. Because the plants are located on state or privately owned land, government agencies that usually protect such plants are not able to do so. Because of this, a small group of local people have decided to care for them.

One of the problems that affect these plants is that feral goats and pigs oft en eat or otherwise destroy them. To remedy this situation, fences are erected around the plant habitat to protect them. This is difficult work because the plants are located high up in the valley on the sides of steep ridges covered with dense vegetation. However, the people who have volunteer to do this important work seem to enjoy it knowing they are preserving plants that are unique to the Hawaiian islands.

This is my friend Farley who guided me back into the valley. He’s standing next to Huperzia manii, one of the listed Federally endangered species in the ex-closures the little proto-fern with the reddish inflorescence on the moss.

Ha’ha with fruit, Cyanea astelifolia, the plant that was thought to be extinct from here. Used to be one of the most common species of the understory in this area. Can get up to 20 feet tall, though usually girdled by goats when it gets bigger.

Palau, the native member of the amaranth family, as it looks when not eaten by goats.

Peperomia refl exa, a native pepper (black ), which comes off the flowering stems. Ala’ ala’ wainui is the Hawaiian.

Olomea, pretty red-stemmed plant, Perrottetia sandwiches. It’s in the Bittersweet family.

Mamake, latin is Pipturus albidus. Nettle fam., used for tapa making. Popular now cause of high iron content of leaves.

Trail on side of ridge with Maile vine going up fallen tree trunk.

Alani - Melicopes ovalis, the other Listed plant up there. There may be 30-40 in ex-closures, these may be all that is left in Kipahulu valley. It’s in the Rue family, with citrus, and alani is the name used of old for citrus trees.

ie’ie, but pronounced like i’e i’e,. Freycinetia arborea, in Pandanus family- flower and fruit arising from it. Eaten by everything around, lucky to see it at this stage.

Kipahulu looking toward the ocean from Cable ridge on a rainy day.


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