CPC Plant Profile: Alula
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Plant Profile

Alula (Brighamia rockii)

Closeup of mature specimen in native habitat. Photo Credit: S. Perlman
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Campanulaceae
  • State: HI
  • Nature Serve ID: 138928
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 07/09/1992

There are two endangered Brighamia species endemic to Hawaii (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] 2001). One, Brighamia insignis, is found on the islands of Kauai and Niihau, and Brighamia rockii is found only on the island of Molokai. Both have succulent stems that act as a water storage system for the plant, allowing plants to withstand periods of drought which can be common on the vertical rock sea-cliffs where they are found. Historically, native Hawaiians made trumpets from the hollowed out trunks of these species, and there are reports of it being cultivated on the island of Molokai as a remedy for consumption and other ailments. B. rockii, a member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) grows as a potentially branched plant 1 to 5 meters (3 to 16 ft) tall with a thickened, succulent stem that tapers from the base. This long-lived perennial has oval leaves that are widest at their tips and are arranged in a rosette at the top of the plant, resembling a head of cabbage. They measure 6 to 22 centimeters (2 to 9 in) long and 5 to 15 centimeters (2 to 6 in) wide. The fragrant flowers of B. rockii have white corollas with glabrous anthers and are clustered in groups of three to eight in the leaf axils. B. insignis differs in petal color (with cream to yellow flowers) and has shorter flower stalks with longer calyx lobes than B. rockii (USFWS 1996). Another distinguishing characteristic between the two is that B. rockii has a distinct purple trunk during its juvenile stage, while B. insignis does not.

Participating Institutions
Updates
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to Molokai, Maui, and possibly Lanai. The 5 current occurrences are found over an 11 km stretch along East Molokai's northern coastline and on Huelo Islet, with fewer than 200 plants remaining. Deer, goats, and alien plants are the most serious threats to the species.

  • 01/01/2010

Threats to B. rockii include the by competition of alien plants, habitat degradation and predation by deer and goats. Low reproductive rates could be due to a number of factors such as, low pollen production, low establishment of seedlings and also a decl

  • 01/01/2010

Number of populations: 5 (USFWS 2001) Number of plants: <100 (USFWS 2001, K.R. Wood Pers. Comm. 2002)

  • 01/01/2010

B. rockii has been successfully hand pollinated and propagated by the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) (USFWS 1996). In February 2002, Ken Wood, of NTBG, hand pollinated cultivated stock with wild collected pollen (M. Maunder, pers. comm. 2002).

  • 01/01/2010

There are three preserves operated by the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii (TNCH) on the island of Molokai; Kamakou, Moomomi, and Pelekunu. TNCH has also employed snaring control and has also worked with state and local hunters to control feral pigs. Seeds and plants of B. rockii have been collected by NTBG (USFWS 1996). NTBG is also propagating and researching the feasibility of long-term seed storage (M. Maunder, pers. comm. 2002). NTBG currently has ex situ holdings of numerous seeds in its seed bank, which represents two out of the five populations. There are also some plants growing in the nursery and 14 plants growing in the grounds of the botanical garden which also represents two out of the five populations. In April, 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that a designation of critical habitat was prudent for this species. (USFWS 2002)

  • 01/01/2010

1. Implement a recovery plan for B. rockii. 2. A research program is recommended to study the growth and reproduction viability, determine the parameters of viable populations, study the reproductive strategy and pollinators, and study pests and possible diseases of B. rockii. 3. Map genetic diversity in the surviving populations of B. rockii. 4. Test the influence of weeding and fencing on populations of B. rockii. Recommendations derived from M. Maunder and USFWS (1996).

  • 01/01/2010

1. Propagation and maintenance of genetic stock ex situ and protection of remaining wild individuals of B. rockii from threats are a necessity. 2. Survey ex situ holdings and conduct molecular fingerprinting. 3. Breeding biology research is urgently required. Cultivated stocks demonstrate a very low level of seed set. 4. Establish secure ex situ stocks with full founder representation. 5. Develop proper horticultural protocol and pest management for B. insignis. Recommendations derived from M.H. Chapin, M. Maunder, K.R. Wood and USFWS (1996).

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Brighamia rockii
Authority H. St. John
Family Campanulaceae
CPC Number 632
ITIS 34624
USDA BRRO
Common Names Alula | 'Olulu | Pu Aupaka | Pua 'Ala | Molokai ohaha
Associated Scientific Names Brighamia rockii | Brighamia remyi | Brighamia rockii f. longiloba
Distribution B. rockii is endemic to Molokai and historically ranged along the northern coast of the island, from Kalaupapa to Halawa, and is now extinct from Lanai and Maui. Today, its range has decreased to scat
State Rank
State State Rank
Hawaii S1
Habitat

B. rockii is found on sea cliffs on the windward coast of Molokai. They are usually located in coastal dry to mesic forests or shrublands from sea level to 470 meters elevation (1,542 ft) (Wagner et al. 1999). Associated species of B. rockii include Metrosideros polymorpha (ohia), Canthium odoratum (alahee), Diospyros sandwicensis (lama), Osteomeles anthyllidifolia (ulei), and Scaevola gaudichaudii (naupaka).

Ecological Relationships

B. rockii is a hermaphrodite that is presumed to be moth-pollinated. It has a protandrous reproductive system, meaning that there is a temporal separation between the production of male and female gametes (several days in this case). Only 5% of the flowers produce pollen, and very few fruits (20 to 60 seeds per capsule) are produced per inflorescence. Cultivated stocks exhibit some degree of incompatibility.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Butterflies & Moths
Sphinx moths Hawk moth Confirmed Pollinator Link

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