KAILUA-KONA >> A Big Island coalition is trying to propagate one of the world’s rarest plants that had been deemed extinct until it was discovered last summer.
The Kohala Watershed Partnership received a $7,550 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Branch to protect and restore the endangered plant species Clermontia peleana singuliflora, more commonly known as oha wai, West Hawaii Today reported Friday.
The last species were collected in 1909 and the Fish and Wildlife Service had presumed it was extinct in 1994. But last summer during a survey of rare tree snail population, a Big Island representative for The Nature Conservancy rediscovered the plant in a North Kohala upland forest.
Thomas Lammers, a Clermontia expert at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, identified the plant as oha wai through photographs sent to him.
The watershed partnership, a voluntary coalition of private landowners and state land managers, aims to propagate and plant at least 200 seedlings in a 10-acre fenced, secret location, said Melora Purell, Kohala Watershed Partnership coordinator.
“This plant had not been seen for a century and to be rediscovered is amazing,” she said. “Its survival shows the power of endangered plants, which are often though as weaker. These survivors carry genes that have helped make them unique and survive stresses.”
About 30 oha wai adults and seedlings have been located and mapped. The endangered shrub or tree grows on another plant but is not parasitic. The plans have greenish-white flowers and dark-green leaves with a reddish midrib and dull-green underside. Its name comes from Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Purell said.