Second Seed of Kanaloa

During the private NTBG tour with the Sierra Club yesterday, we stopped near the nursery where they propagate native Hawaiian plants. While the gardens contain plants from all over the world, the recent focus of their work has been to grow, study, and save the plants that are endemic to Hawaii, which means those found nowhere else on earth.

To that end, NTBG researchers have combed the islands looking for specimens. As the following plaque explains, this plant was found to be a new species when it was discovered on Kaho`olawe, the small island off of Maui that was used for bombing practice by the US military for 40 years.

Sometimes a picture is only worth 71 words: Kanaloa.  Kanaloa Kahoolawensis. Fabaceae - Pea Family. Status: Rare. A new genus and species of an ancient plant was discovered  in 1992 by NTBG staff. This rare plant is only known from 2 remaining plants on the island of Kahoolawe, a small, arid, and highly disturbed island. Fossil pollen attributed to Kanaloa has been found in core samples from lowland sites on the island of Oahu dating to the early Peistocene Era. --maybe I can do better: its a small shrub with stick branches and roundish pale green leaves

On previous visits to the garden, we had been told they weren’t even sure if this plant was male or female or both, putting its survival as a species at risk. On this visit, we happily learned that it had produced a seed, which had been allowed to mature. In fact, our Sierra Club guide and NTBG employee had himself picked the seed earlier that very same day. Looking at the plant some more, I noticed an oddly shaped leaf that was lighter than the others. Looking at it sideways revealed its thickness and showed it was another seed:

The seed pod, looking like a flat, single bean. You cannot really see in this picture, but the seed is all the way at the end of a branch hanging outside the planter.

This is only the second seed known for this species of plant, and the staff hadn’t noticed it before. As with the first, they will wait for it to mature, pick it, plant it, and hope it grows.

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