Common Name: ‘Olulu, Cabbage on a Stick
Origin/Habitat: Grows on steep, rocky cliffs on the island of Kauai,
Threats: Lack of pollinators.
Current Status: Critically Endangered.
Description: Brighamia insignis is a critically endangered plant native to the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and formerly Ni’ihau. It grows on steep sea cliffs and coastal bluffs, and has thick succulent stems with white blooms in the late fall. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as of 2007, the population consists of just one mature individual. The reason for its decline in numbers is that it’s only pollinator, a species of hawk moth, is now extinct. Unable to produce seed on its own, the only way for Brighamia to produce seed is from hand pollination by humans. Biologists now climb or repel down cliffs to pollinate these flowers when in bloom. Fortunately, hand pollination is easily done, and this species is widely distributed in botanic gardens and the horticultural trade. The remaining wild population, however, will forever need to be hand pollinated for it to remain in its natural habitat.
Photos: Rachel Cobb