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Plant Profile

Nanu (Gardenia brighamii)

This closeup shot features one flower and several leaves. Photo Credit: Nellie Sugii
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Rubiaceae
  • State: HI
  • Nature Serve ID: 128707
  • Lifeform: Tree, Shrub
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Gardenia brighamii is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and at one time thought to have occurred on all of the main islands. Judging from its use by the Hawaiians as a cloth dye, its habitat, associated species, and distribution in the early 1900s, it was probably a relatively common member of the lowland dry forest. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was considered common on west Moloka`i and Maui, but already either extirpated or very rare on the other islands. Today, the total known wild individuals of Gardenia brighamii numbers less than 20 and are distributed among 6 populations on Oah`u, Lana`i and Moloka`i. Gardenia brighamii, the Hawaiian gardenia, somewhat resembles the commonly cultivated Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis). Gardenia brighamii is a small tree, which may grow up to 20 feet in height. The leaves are oval-shaped, shiny and dark green. The solitary flowers are white and very fragrant.

Where is Nanu (Gardenia brighamii) located in the wild?


Dry scrub and forests on the leeward sides of the islands,350 to 520 meters elevation (Wagner et al. 1999) and (USFWS, 1993).


Lana`i- Kanepuu area, Wahane Gulch, and Puhielelu Ridge.O`ahu- Puu Kuua and Nankuli.Moloka`i- Mahana.(USFWS 1993)

States & Provinces:

Nanu can be found in Hawaii

Which CPC Partners conserve Nanu (Gardenia brighamii)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to the islands of Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii. No plants are known to be extant on Maui and Hawaii. Only one tree remains on Molokai, and only 3 are known to remain on Oahu. There are fewer than 20 left on Lanai. The dry forest habitat of this species has been destroyed or altered by agriculture, development, and fire. Alien plants and ungulates continue to adversely affect the species and its habitats.

David Orr
  • 01/01/2010

Agriculture and urban expansion. Feral and wild ungulates- grazing and trampling. Fire. Invertebrates and disease. Alien invasive plants. Soil erosion. Overcollection. Rats. (USFWS 2001) and (USFWS 1993).

David Orr
  • 01/01/2010

Lana`i Kanepuu area, 1 population, 7-8 individuals. Wahane Gulch, 1 population, 2-3 individuals. Puhielelu Ridge, 1 population, 4 individuals. O`ahu Puu Kuua, 1 population, 1 individual. Nanakuli, 1 population, 2 individuals. Moloka`i Mahana, 1 population, 1 individual. (USFWS 2001) and (USFWS 1993).

David Orr
  • 01/01/2010

Propagation- seed and cuttings. (USFWS 1993)

David Orr
  • 01/01/2010

Insect predation control- O`ahu, Puu Kuua. Plant sprayed for twig borer control. Fencing- O`ahu, Puu Kuua, Nanakuli, on Moloka`i, Kahana and Lanai, Kanepuu. Alien tree removal from Puu Kuua site. (USFWS 1993)

David Orr
  • 01/01/2010

Secure and stabilize the 6 known populations, especially the ones existing on private land. Control alien weeds. Control invertebrates and disease. Rat control. Reduced fire threat. Control grazing of alien herbivores. Fencing. Outplanting. (USFWS 1993)

David Orr
  • 01/01/2010

Collect and establish propagules from all known wild individuals ex situ. Seed bank and germplasm preservation. Genetic studies. Physiological studies. Propagation. (USFWS 1993)


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Taxon Gardenia brighamii
Authority H. Mann
Family Rubiaceae
CPC Number 1994
ITIS 35160
Duration Perennial
Common Names Hawaiian gardenia | nanu | na'u | forest gardenia
Associated Scientific Names Gardenia brighamii
Distribution Lana`i- Kanepuu area, Wahane Gulch, and Puhielelu Ridge.O`ahu- Puu Kuua and Nankuli.Moloka`i- Mahana.(USFWS 1993)
State Rank
State State Rank
Hawaii S1
Ecological Relationships

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bee Confirmed Pollinator Link
Butterflies & Moths
Moth Confirmed Pollinator Link
Syrphid flies Allograpta exotica Floral Visitor Link

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