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Brighamia insignis
 
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:: Brighamia ::

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 of Kauai.

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.

The Brighamia's 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.


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Cal Poly Plant Conservatory
Biological Sciences Department
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, Ca 93407
805.756.2775
mritter@calpoly.edu