New 'one of a kind' plant discovered in Hawaii rainforest

A newly discovered plant in a Hawaiian Rainforest.

A newly discovered plant, possibly the only one of its kind, has been found deep in a Hawaiian rainforest.

Named Cyanea heluensis, the rare plant was found by botanists in a remote part of West Maui, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a Facebook statement on Christmas Eve.

“While exploring the steep slopes of Helu above Lahaina, botanist Hank Oppenheimer and colleague Jennifer Higashino found a single large plant in the deep shade of a healthy ohia forest,” the statement read.

The plant is similar to other native plants known as hāhā, but has unique leaves and gently curved, long, white flowers which some Facebook users said resembled uncooked French fries.

There is no record of the plant being previously discovered and botanists believe this is due to the steep, thick terrain it was found in.

DLNR said it has made several other attempts to survey the area to find more of the species, but each attempt has failed

The flowers of this and other related species are usually pollinated by birds, and the orange fruits are attractive to fruit-eating native birds that would disperse the seeds.

But botanists are now working to ensure the plants ongoing survival as rats and slugs can often eat native flowers and leaves, preventing pollination and seed spread.
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Cyanea heluensis has been added to 250 species being managed by the University of Hawaii’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program and botanists have successfully produced new growth on the plant using a specialised paste.

“The new growth was successfully transported to Maui’s Olinda Rare Plant Facility, where it is being propagated,” the statement read.