Image by Ken Wood
This is one of two species of Brighamia, both of which are only found in the Hawaiian Islands. Brighamia insignis or alula in Hawaiian, evolved to live on the windy, steep sea-side cliffs on the islands of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau and as such develops a large, swollen trunk that anchors it into rocky terrain. The unique species also develops beautiful yellow, fragrant flowers that were likely used by early Hawaiians to make lei. Habitat degradation by non-native animals and plant species, as well as hurricanes, have severely decreased the population size of the species. Furthermore, conservation researchers suspect that the native pollinator(s) of B. insignis (likely a hawk moth) are no longer present, meaning that individuals must be hand pollinated for successful reproduction to occur. As a consequence, B. insignis is currently listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild) by the IUCN Red List. Part of a previous pilot project, work with B. insignis has provided important insights into the use and development of our tools (see Griffith et al. 2019 in publications).