Any region with significant level of biodiversity exposed to threat of destruction can have severe deforestation and other forms of agricultural clearing like logging, charcoal-making, etc. Due to this degradation of its ecological habitats, such region may become a home for critically endangered endemic species. Researchers have it that the less rainforest a given region has, the greater the proportion of endangered species it hosts. In Hawaii, two native plants were identified as the most critically endangered species.
Brighamia rockii & Brighamia insignis are endemic to the region.
Both of these species are similar to each other except their respective colors. Both of them also have succulent stems that function as water storage allowing them to sustain amidst drought season. B. rockii though is different in color. It is a native plant with purple trunks that develops in its early stage, while B. insignis does not change its color at all. B. Rockii can grow spectacularly as a branched plant 1 to 5 meters tall along with its thick succulent stems that narrows from the base.
It has elliptical leaves that forms and looks like the head of a cabbage. B. Rockii produces fragrant flowers that have corollas in white and anthers which are grouped in three to eight in its axils. Few of the associated species of B. rockii are Metrosideros polymorpha (ohia), Canthium odoratum (alahee), Diospyros sandwicensis (lama), Osteomeles anthyllidifolia (ulei), and Scaevola gaudichaudii (naupaka). B. Rockii is an endemic native plant that belongs to the family of bellflowers known as Campanulaceae. Its common names are alula, ‘olulu, pu aupaka and pua ‘ala.
B. Rockii is also tagged with taxonomic synonyms namely, Brighamia remyi, Brighamia rockii fa. and Longiloba Known to have been extinct, this plant is only found on sea cliffs in the island of Moloka (Hannon 2002; Wagner 1999) i. Its natural habitats, however, are coastal dry forests, moist shrub lands above sea level up to 470 meters elevation. B. rockii is common to Molokai and extends to the northern part of the island – Kalaupapa to Halawa. However, just recently, it has been found out that it has become an almost died out specie in Lanai and Maui.
Hand pollination for cultivated plants allows its seed production to increase because its native pollinator are also extinct. Similarly, for the Brighamia to be hand pollinated, the use of a small paint brush is needed to transfer the pollen grains. When the flowers of B. Rockii are yet a few days old, the pollen will begin to drop. The paint brush can then be used to pick up the pollens that fell onto the flower tube and place it over to another flower’s stigma. This stigma is good to receive the pollen when it appears sticky and glossy.
Researchers found out that the seeds of Brighamia need the presence of light to produce and sprinkle the seeds onto the surface of a damp medium. These seeds can also be stored in a refrigerator from 2 to 3 years but its capability depreciates after 10 to 12 months. It was also found out from NTBG report ((Ragone 1993) that came out on 1993 that the seeds of Brighamia were no longer viable after it has been stored in an area with a temperature of 80 degrees F and humidity of 25 % for 1 year and 5 months (Hannon 2002; Koob 2000; NTBG 1992; Ragone 1993; Wagner 1999).
The plant was believed to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1996. From its discovery, only few remained and became part of the current population estimated to run at most 5 in numbers. “No bird, butterfly, flower, tree or animal disappears alone. When they slip into extinction, they disappear with their unique genes – the building blocks of life (Dr. Norman Meyer of Oxford University). ” These species, rare finds and threatened, may cease to exist even without being given a name. Yet again, Brighamia rockii is just one of the most critically endangered.
There are more that are susceptible to extinction too. Still, some remained unnoticed. Perhaps, extinction is natural but if we, humans alike are hastening the process, then probably our race comes with the extinction as well. “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying earth (Schweitzer 2004). ”
Hannon, Dylan P. and Steve Perlman. 2002. The Genus Brighamia. Cactus and Succulent Journal 74 (2):67-76. Johnson, Margaret. 1986. Brighamia citrina var. napaliensis.
Kew Magazine 3 (2):68-72. Koob, Gregory A. 2000. Cabbage on a baseball bat. Hawai’i Horticulture 3 (6):9-11. National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). 1992. Alula. In Native Hawaiian plant information sheets. Lawai, Kauai: Hawaii Plant Conservation Center. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Unpublished internal papers. Ragone, Diane, (Program Coordinator). 1993. Hawaii Plant Conservation Center – Collection & Propagation Project: Progress Report (USFWS Grant 14-48-0001-92581). Lawai, Hawaii: National Tropical Botanical Garden.