Maui News

Endangered ʻĀwikiwiki Vine Reintroduced During Planting Ceremony on Lāna‘i

October 22, 2021, 5:15 AM HST
* Updated October 26, 6:43 AM
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Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi General Manager Alastair McAlpine (left) and President of Pūlama Lānaʻi Kurt Matsumoto (right). PC: courtesy

A planting ceremony was held at Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi on Thursday with Pūlama Lānaʻi to commence the launch of a botanical preservation project to reintroduce the federally endangered ʻāwikiwiki plant to the area around the resort. ʻĀwikiwiki, also known by its scientific name Canavalia pubescens, is a perennial vine with dark purple to pink flowers.

The ʻāwikiwiki planted are from a former Lānaʻi ʻāwikiwiki founder near Kaʻena, on the northwest side of Lānaʻi. The plants are being established inside Four Season Resort Lānaʻi’s Tennis Garden, where they will be protected from non-native herbivores (such as axis deer), and the landscaping team can closely care for them as they flourish.

Authorized seed collection from these plants will be sent to Lyon Arboretum for long term seed storage, with plans to create a protected area where destructive ungulates (axis deer and mouflon sheep) will be fenced out and plants will have the opportunity to grow. 

Some seeds will be withdrawn in the next few years when Pūlama Lānaʻi and Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi staff can look forward to the reintroduction of ʻāwikiwiki in its native habitat in the Hulopoʻe-Mānele coastal zone. Wild ʻāwikiwiki plants have not been seen in this area for more than two decades.

Although historically endemic to the Hawaiian Islands of Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Maui and Lānaʻi, ʻāwikiwiki has most likely been extirpated from Niʻihau and Kauaʻi. The species is found in open lava fields, along rocky shorelines, and open dry shrubland to dry forest habitats. 

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A number of new ʻāwikiwiki individuals have been discovered on Lānaʻi in recent years, although the total number of known wild plants on island is currently only two mature individuals. Seed collection from these remaining wild plants is ongoing. There are currently more than 20 ʻāwikiwiki outplanted at four protected (fenced) sites on Lānaʻi.  

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This project is part of ongoing preservation efforts by both organisations. Pūlama Lānaʻi’s Conservation Department cares for the island’s diverse species and fragile ecosystem through the protection and monitoring of native species, control and removal of invasive species and biosecurity – preventing the introduction of any new invasive species.

Among many initiatives, the team has constructed a nursery that grows numerous native plants that are then outplanted around the island. Rare plant monitoring, seed collection, nursery propagation, and outplanting activities are all covered under the rare plant permit that Pūlama Lānaʻi has maintained for a number of years with the State of Hawaiʻi’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. In addition, the Pūlama Lānaʻi Conservation Department is focused on establishing predator- and ungulate-free zones throughout the island to protect native plants, tree snails, and seabirds, particularly through fencing.

“Protecting Lānaʻi’s native ecosystem is part of our larger vision of creating a sustainable island community,” said Kurt Matsumoto, President of Pūlama Lānaʻi . “We are grateful to the team at Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi for providing a home for the endangered ʻāwikiwiki. Their care will ensure that another species endemic to our island will not be lost forever.”

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Alastair McAlpine, General Manager, Four Seasons Resorts Lānaʻi said, “Our guests are eager to learn about Lānaʻi’s rich culture and history through our Love Lānaʻi workshops and Garden Tours and we look forward to sharing this story with them.”

Director of Landscaping Robert Woodman presides over the Resort’s botanical gardens, consisting of 12 densely-planted acres (almost five hectares) with more than 500 species, including a deliberate and thoughtful program to incorporate a wide variety of Hawaiian native plants.  Woodman conducts complimentary tours of the gardens and has set up an online encyclopaedia and map, complimented by a gallery of images offering a colourful showcase of the rich variety of foliage.  

The Resort recently achieved Arboretum Accreditation by the Morton Register of Arboreta, recognising professional standards and capabilities in a shared purpose to plant and conserve trees and advance goals specific to tree-focused public gardens. 

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