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Park Rangers Rescue Endangered Plants

July 3, 2013

It’s not always lost or injured hikers who get rescued by park rangers.

Rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park rappelled nearly 200 feet into a remote pit crater last week to “rescue” seeds and cuttings from four extremely rare Hawaiian plants in the national park. The park will use the seeds and cuttings to help reestablish these species.

Pit crater

Can you see the ranger on the pit crater wall? The pit cater in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park where the endangered plant search and rescue mission occurred June 26, 2013. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

During the mission, seeds and cuttings from hāhā (Cyanea stictophylla), a federally endangered shrub found only on Hawai‘i Island, were carefully collected. This stunning plant is extremely rare, and in 1996, only 20 plants were estimated to survive in the wild.

hāhā Jon

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Ranger Jon Maka’ike collects seeds from a flowering hāhā (Cyanea stictophylla) June 26, 2013.

Seeds and cuttings from other rare species collected included a species related to hāhā, Cyanea pilosa; an odorless Hawaiian mint (Phyllostegia sp.); and a native shrub in the African violet family, ha‘iwale (Cyrtandra lysiosepala).

Cyanea: Plant shown is closeup of hāhā (Cyanea stictophylla )flowering. This individual was collected from the Pit Crater a few years ago, and has been growing in a park greenhouse since. It flowered and fruited this year. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

Closeup of hāhā (Cyanea stictophylla) flowering. This individual was collected from the pit crater a few years ago, and has been growing in a park greenhouse since. It flowered and fruited this year. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

Although a 4,000-foot elevation and the steep, sheer walls of the forested pit crater aid in protecting its ecology, those conditions make it challenging to retrieve cuttings and seeds. Two specialized teams from the national park, the Natural Resources Management rappel team and the Search and Rescue team, descended into the crater, retrieved the seeds and cuttings, and returned safely to the surface – a 12-hour mission.

The team in action. NPS Photo.

The team in action. NPS Photo.

Joining rangers were members of Hawai‘i County Fire Department and Pōhakuloa Training Area’s fire management team. This enabled the project ample contingency resources in the event of an incident, and fosters interagency cooperation that will be seeds in themselves for future mutual assistance.Joining rangers were members of Hawai‘i County Fire Department and Pōhakuloa Training Area’s fire management team. This enabled the project ample contingency resources in the event of an incident, and fosters interagency cooperation that will be seeds in themselves for future mutual assistance.

“Bot Shots.” All rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park unless otherwise indicated: Top row, from left: John Broward, Jon Maka‘ike, Tony Lutz, Manuel Uribe, Tyler Paul, David Benitez, and Greg Santos Middle row, from left: Nainoa Keana‘āina, Grant Stolhand, Chris Schied (Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park) and Shyla Ronia Bottom row, from left: Arnold Nakata, David Ulman (Pōhakuloa Training Area), Fernando Ramangmo, Jai Crystal and Ariel Brown.

“Bot Shots.” All rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park unless otherwise indicated:
Top row, from left: John Broward, Jon Maka‘ike, Tony Lutz, Manuel Uribe, Tyler Paul, David Benitez, and Greg Santos
Middle row, from left: Nainoa Keana‘āina, Grant Stolhand, Chris Schied (Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park) and Shyla Ronia
Bottom row, from left: Arnold Nakata, David Ulman (Pōhakuloa Training Area), Fernando Ramangmo, Jai Crystal and Ariel Brown. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser.

 

Seeds and cuttings

The goods. Seeds and cuttings gathered June 26, 2013. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser.

 

 

-NPS-

One Comment leave one →
  1. M. Joyce Edwards permalink
    July 3, 2013 1:45 pm

    I admire your dedication to save these wonderful plants found only there! Your daring nature helps in preserving them, and a big cheer for all your dangerous work. I love everything about dear Hawaii and anything to save any of the precious and gorgeous plants is to be commended. Thank you each and everyone of you – Mahalo!

    I am presently trying to grow from cuttings, the Ti plant, Ginger plant, and trying to really grow the Plumeria. So far, so good!!!

    HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!

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