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Acyranthes splendens splendens
photo by Irene Newhouse
The Hibiscus brackenridgei Exclosure

Ma`o hau hele is Hawai`i's official State flower. There are three subspecies currently recognized: Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. brackenridgei which occurs on Lana`i, Maui, and Hawai`i; H. b. subsp. mokuleianus, from Kaua`i and O`ahu; and H. b. subsp. molokaiana, known from Moloka`i and O`ahu. An unknown subspecies may have formerly grown on Kaho`olawe. A federally listed Endangered Species, according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service records ma`o hau hele is extinct on the islands of Kaua`i and Moloka`i. The remaining populations are extremely small and on the brink of  extinction. It is now known from only two or three locations on Maui; possibly two on leeward Haleakala, and another on Mauna Kahalawai (a.k.a. West Maui). One of these was fenced in the 1980's by the Native Hawaiian Plant Society to protect these beautiful plants from trampling and grazing by cattle, goats, and deer. The exclosure measures a little more than 10,000 square feet, a bit under 1/4 acre. Our efforts to date have focused on controlling invasive, alien plant species that are competing with ma`o hau hele for space, light, water, and nutrients, and add to the threat of fire. Other activities include inspection & maintenance of the fence. In April of 2001 there were over 200 seedlings, but only 3 mature plants, and we began to count, number, measure, and tag most of the ma`o hau hele in order to learn more about its life history. Fourteen native plant species have been observed in the exclosure, including `ilima (Sida fallax), nehe (Lipochaeta lobata var. lobata), `a`ali`i (Dodonaea viscosa), `uhaloa (Waltheria indica), wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis), kupala (Sicyos pachycarpus), `ilie`e (Plumbago zeylanica), two species of annual grasses known as kakonakona (Panicum xerophilum and P. torridum), `aweoweo (Chenopodium oahuense), koali`awa (Ipomoea indica), `iwa`iwa (Doryopteris decipiens, a fern) plus two rarities: Schiedea salicaria, endemic to Mauna Kahalawai and a Candidate for listing as Endangered; and Achyranthes splendens var. splendens. This dry shrubland is home to invertebrates such as the koa butterfly (Udara blackburnii) and a native amber snail, Succinea caduca, among others.  You can help insure this unique native Hawaiian species thrives by joining with other volunteers on our regular service trips to the exclosure. Call  the Project leader, Hank Oppenheimer,  at 357-2074 for more information.

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This page was created on 01 July 2006 by PT, and was last updated on 25 Dec 2009 by EIN

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