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Hawaiian Hibiscus Flower Thought Extinct Rediscovered By Drone

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A hibiscus flower species was rediscovered in the Hawaiian island of Kauai a decade after it was last seen alive. The island of Kauai is known as a biodiversity hotspot in the Hawaiian islands.

Rediscovered Hibiscus Species

During a late January drone surveillance of the Kalalau Valley on Kauai, Hawaii, researchers rediscovered a small colony of three Hibiscadelphus woodii (H. woodii) on a vertical cliff face. It was in 2009 that the species was last seen alive, and has since been listed in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as an extinct relative of the hibiscus.

Previous efforts to propagate H. woodii failed despite using several different methods, so the rediscovery gives hope, not just for the H. woodii, but for other species believed to be extinct as well. Furthermore, it also highlights the importance of drone surveillance in botanical surveys, particularly in rough terrain.

“Drones are unlocking a treasure trove of unexplored cliff habitat, and while this may be the first discovery of its kind, I am sure it won’t be the last,” said Ben Nyberg of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Hibiscadelphus Woodii

H.woodii grows as a shrub or small tree, and produces yellow flowers that turn purple as they mature. It was first discovered in 1991 on a cliff in the Kalalau Valley, and was officially named in 1995. This increased the hibiscus to seven species, all of which can only be found in the Hawaiian islands. By 2012, another discovery in Maui became the eighth hibiscus species, but by then six had already gone extinct.

The cliff location in which H. woodii grows is not typically accessible to humans and animals such as goats that typically pose a threat, but invasive plant species, introduced animals, and rock slides do affect the species. In fact, it was the falling boulders in the late 1990s that led to the species’ demise.

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