This strange plant,
which looks a bit like a cabbage on a stick, is called Brighamia insignis,
and it is literally on the edge of extinction. It is a succulent, which can live
for a long time and grows to a height of between three and six feet. Brighamia
only survives on the 3,000 foot high Na Pali sea cliffs, on the Hawaiian Island
This plant was
once common on the four highest Hawaiian Islands, and was known to the native
Polynesians as 'alula.' Sadly, there are now fewer than 100 Brighamia
plants on Kauai. The environment in this special place has changed because plants
and animals have been introduced from other parts of the world and the habitat
has been disturbed and damaged.
environment has been disturbed so much that the species of insects, which were
specially adapted to pollinate the Brighamia flowers, have become extinct.
Scientists from the Conservation Department of the National Tropical Botanical
Garden in Hawaii use ropes to lower themselves partway down the steep cliff faces
to pollinate the remaining wild plants by hand.
(click for large image)