Volcano Rare Plant Facility – FY 2008 Report
A. Research: To develop protocols for propagation and production of endangered plant species.
B. Propagation of rare or endangered plant taxa to prevent extinction and maintain genetic diversity. This includes coordinating with different agencies for out planting species for habitat restoration.
Objective A: Research to develop procedures for propagation and production of endangered Big Island plant species.
In the Fiscal Year 2008 VRPF received and worked on 275 new plant accessions. As VRPF does every year the staff developed germination treatments, study phenology, and test new fertilizers, pesticides, and growth media that are appropriate for plants from diverse Big Island habitats. Of particular note this year was VRPF’s work on studying the phenology and working out the hand pollination procedures for several endangered species. A few years ago Clermontia peleana ssp peleana was regarded as extinct in the wild. (New wild plants have since been found in the last year.) Using stock plants in the greenhouses the staff worked at enhancing flowering and began to study the phenology of this species. This led to elucidating the sequence and timing of the shedding of ripe pollen and of stigmatic receptivity. This information was a key to successfully hand pollinating this species. Pollination took place over the summer of 2007 and today VRPF has more than 4000 seedlings that are the result of hand pollinations. Similar procedures yielded viable seed from Trematolobelia grandifolia and first time seed production in the greenhouses of Anoectochilus sandvicensis. VRPF produced hundreds of Trematolobelia seedlings but the staff is still waiting to see if the Anoectochilus seed is viable. VRPF’s successful work on fern propagation from spore to outplanting stage has great promise not just for endangered ferns but for the production of more common native ferns that can be used in restoration projects as ground cover to exclude weeds.
Objective B: Propagation of rare and endangered plants to increase numbers and preserve genetic diversity with the ultimate objective of restoring these plants to native habitats.
VRPF’s inventory of plants for FY2008 covers 81 species with 47 species listed as endangered, 9 listed as candidates, and 25 listed as species of concern. These include gene banked plants and seeds, plants that are intended for future outplanting, and those outplanted this year.
In the past fiscal year VRPF produced 6289 plants listed as threatened or endangered that were outplanted to secured sites around the Big Island. VRPF’s largest project in collaboration with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the outplanting of 3683 Ka’u silverswords. In addition the staff produced another 1582 native plants not currently listed that were outplanted to provide more diverse and robust native communities to enhance restoration projects. Not included on any of the lists of plants that the staff work with are newly named Cyrtandra wagneri, Cyanea spp (possibly fernaldii), and some unidentified Phyllostegias. These rare plants are being worked on since they occur in single populations and in very low numbers. However, these species have no official protection.
As a part of VRPF’s educational mission the staff hosted University of Hawaii at Hilo. A new and important addition to Volcano Rare Plant Facility, a full time Assistant Plant Propagator was hired in September 2007.