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Three Mountain Alliance, an organization that works to repopulate endangered Hawaiian plant species, found a tree supposedly extinct while on a seed gathering trip atop one of Hawaii’s mountains. Last month, teams from the organizations went back and planted 30 seedlings from the fruit of the tree they found. They hope that the species can once again repopulate Hawaii’s island.
The tree is called Delissea argutidentata and is one of the two remaining species from the Delissea genus which is native to Hawaii. Sadly, 14 other species within the genus are lost. This tree is palm-like and can grow up to 35 feet (10,2 meters). It has a thick head of long narrow leafs. Back before 1992 (when the tree was declared extinct) the tree used to be growing in the shade of the giant koa trees found in volcanic craters.
The organization fenced off the area where they found the tree until February of this year (2022) when they returned to gather the fruit once more. The seedlings were shipped off to a cold storage for extra security. Upon the teams return to the area last winter, they found two new wild-growing seedlings.
“Kamehameha Schools has been successful at stewarding native ecosystems as a whole but what’s really exciting is that this is the first step toward a much bigger focus on rare species recovery,” KS Senior Natural Resources Manager Amber Nāmaka Whitehead said to Maui Now.
“We need both—healthy native ecosystems and every one of our rare species. They are critically important to our Hawaiian cultural identity and our health and well-being as a people.”
“Rediscovery of Delissea is such an important message of hope,” TMA Coordinator Colleen Cole said. “In Hawaiʻi, there is often much focus on loss: loss of species, forest, sacred places—and maybe that is human nature but the Delissea reminds us to always nurture and make room for hope and discovery.”