Sunday | December 17, 2017
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Park rangers rescue endangered plants

It’s not always lost or injured hikers who get rescued by park rangers.

Rangers from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rappelled nearly 200 feet into a remote pit crater to “rescue” seeds and cuttings from four extremely rare Hawaiian plants in the national park. The park will use the materials to help re-establish these species.

Seeds and cuttings from haha, Cyanea stictophylla, an endangered shrub found only on Hawaii Island, were collected. In 1996, only 20 plants were estimated to survive in the wild.

Other rare species collected included a relative of haha, Cyanea pilosa, an odorless Hawaiian mint, Phyllostegia sp., and a native shrub in the African violet family, haiwale, Cyrtandra lysiosepala.

Although a 4,000-foot elevation and the steep walls of the forested pit crater aid in protecting its ecology, those conditions make it challenging to retrieve cuttings and seeds. The park’s Natural Resources Management rappel and Search and Rescue teams took part in the task, joined by members of the Hawaii County Fire Department and Pohakuloa Training Area’s fire management team.