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NATURAL HISTORY

COMMON } Dubautia plantaginea magnifolia, Dubautia imbricata imbricata, and Dubautia waialealae
FAMILY: Asteraceae

DESCRIPTION: The handful of native Hawaiian shrubs that share the name “na’ena’e” all have stunning yellow, orange, and sometimes purple flowers. They can grow to be anywhere from six to 23 feet tall. A member of the aster family, na’ena’e have oval or spearhead-shaped leaves and small seeds.

HABITAT: Found at elevations between 2,000 and 6,900 feet, n a’ena’e grow in Hawaii’s wet forests and bogs, as well as on dripping cliff faces. On average, the sites occupied by na’ena’e receive more than 100 inches of rain a year.  

RANGE: Na’ena’e are very particular plants, found only near the summit of Waialeale on the Hawaiian island of Kauai — one of the wettest places on Earth.  

LIFE CYCLE: These plants f lower from August to December.  

THREATS: N a’ena’e are threatened by nonnative feral pigs, which were introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 by Captain James Cook. Just like domestic cattle on the American mainland, pigs trample and eat plants, their seeds, and seedlings, thereby undermining forest regeneration. They can get to just about anywhere and will even climb steep slopes. While disturbing soils and contributing to erosion, pigs also disperse exotic plant seeds via their hooves and fur as well as through their digestive tracts. Feral pigs are a major factor in the spread of hundreds of introduced plant species competing with Hawaii’s native plants — including the na’ena’e — for space, light, water, and nutrients.  

POPULATION TREND: One of the na’ena’e subspecies currently survives in just two populations — totaling 100 plants on public lands and a handful being grown in captivity. It is unknown if the cultivated plants can be successfully transplanted into the wild if the boars kill off everything else.

Photo © Bruce G. Marcot