Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 20, 2018

Contact: Loyal Mehrhoff, (808) 351-3200,

Three Endangered Hawaiian Plants Will Gain 11,000 Acres of Protected Habitat

Plants Threatened by Development Get Critical Habitat Designations

HONOLULU, Hawaii— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it will protect 11,640 acres of critical habitat for three Hawaiian plants on the island of Hawaii. The species — Isodendrion pyrifolium (wahine noho kula), Bidens micrantha ssp. ctenophylla (ko‘oko‘olau), and Mezoneuron kavaiense (uhiuhi) — are threatened by habitat loss, invasive species and the effects of introduced sheep and goats. The protected habitat is in North Kona and South Kohala. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for protection of the ko‘oko‘olau in 2004.

“Protecting critical habitat is crucial to the survival and recovery of these highly endangered plants. We have known the key importance of these areas for well over 25 years and it’s good that they’re finally getting some protection,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, endangered species recovery director at the Center for Biological Diversity and former field supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hawaii.

With more endangered species than any other state, Hawaii is on the front line of the extinction crisis. All three species have limited habitat and are on the brink of extinction. Currently, fewer than five Isodendrion plants are known, and each of the other two species have fewer than 100 individuals remaining. More than 7,000 acres were excluded from critical habitat designation because they are included in management plans and agreements thought to benefit these species. 

“We’re pleased that several landowners have made important commitments to help recover these unique Hawaiian plants. Their efforts will be key to the survival of these species,” said Mehrhoff. “However, we continue to have significant concerns about the exclusion of some occupied habitat in the Kaloko area and the overall management of state lands.”

The uhiuhi is a 30-feet tall tree with grayish colored bark and striking red flowers. The wood is very hard and was used for cultural purposes, including spears and sleds, before the plant became so rare.

The ko‘oko‘olau is a 4-foot tall shrub with yellow flowers that was once used to make tea.

The wahine noho kula is a member of the violet family with highly fragrant flowers. It is so rare it was presumed extinct until it was rediscovered in 1991.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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