Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 4th week in August - Alula

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 4th week in August:

Alula, or Brighamia insignis, is blossoming now on windward sea cliffs of Kaua'i and Moloka'i. Formerly found also on Maui and Ni'ihau, this rare and endangered native lobelia has made some remarkable adaptations to survive in its dry, windy, and salty environment.

In times of drought, alula lives on water it has stored in its thick stem and grows smaller leaves than usual, thereby reducing loss of moisture. its roots grow horizontally to provide footing in the thin soil and crevasses of cliff faces, and its base is rounded, enabling it to sway a little with the stiffest gusts of wind.

Owing to these adaptations, alula is a hardy and long-lived plant, with individuals reaching heights of more than twelve feet. Unfortunately, it now faces threats for which the centuries of evolution have not prepared it, including predation by goats, competition from foreign plants, and removal by admiring humans.

Brighamia insignis is one of the plants being monitored and protected by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, or PEP.

To find out more about Brighamia insignis, visit the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy fact sheet.

For more info, check out the National Tropical Botanical Garden fact sheet.

Also see the alula webpage.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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