Brighamia insignis 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Campanulales Campanulaceae

Scientific Name: Brighamia insignis
Species Authority: A.Gray
Brighamia insignis A.Gray fma. citrina C.N.Forbes & Lydgate
Brighamia citrina (C.N.Forbes & Lydgate) H.St.John
Brighamia citrina (C.N.Forbes & Lydgate) H.St.John var. napaliensis H.St.John
Taxonomic Source(s): Wagner, W.L., Herbst, D.R. and Lorence, D.H. 2005 onwards. Flora of the Hawaiian Islands website. Available at:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild) D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-07-14
Assessor(s): Walsh, S.
Reviewer(s): Deans, S.
Contributor(s): Wood, K., Nyberg, B., Bruegmann, M. & Caraway, V.L.
Brighamia insignis is assessed as Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct in the Wild under criterion D. The taxon is endemic to the island of Kauaʻi  and historically to Niʻihau. It has an extent of occurrence and area of occupancy of only 1 km2 as only a single wild individual remained. It was last seen/recorded in the wild in 2014. The decline in the species is due to a combination of threats - invasive species predating the species and degrading/invading its habitat, landslides as a result of hurricanes, and climate change. It is thought that the pollinator(s) of this species is/are now also extinct and that the species is self-incompatible, hence there has been no reproduction and seed production.
Date last seen: 2014
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This Hawaiian endemic is confined to the island of Kauaʻi and historically to Niʻihau. On Kauaʻi, it was formally found along the length of the Na Pali coast and throughout the Haʻupu Mountain range, in the southeast part of the island, between 122 and 480 m elevation. Now just a single wild individual is known to remain, at 152 m elevation on the Nā Pali coast.
Countries occurrence:
Possibly extinct:
United States (Hawaiian Is.)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:1Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):Yes
Number of Locations:1Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Lower elevation limit (metres):152
Upper elevation limit (metres):152
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The taxon is extremely rare, with a single wild individual remaining in 2014. It is extirpated on Niʻhau.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:0-1Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
All individuals in one subpopulation:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The taxon is a succulent, typically unbranched shrub of sea cliffs and coastal bluffs. Associated native plant species may include the following: Hibiscus kokio subsp. saintjohnianus, Euphorbia sp., Polyscias racemosa, Pandanus tectorius, Artemisia austalis, Bidens forbesii, Euphorbia celastroides, Eragrostis variabilis, Psydrax odorata.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This taxon has been extremely popular in the plant trade all over the world, both in botanic gardens and homes, for decades. In 1977 and 1978, then National Tropical Botanical Garden field botanist Steve Perlman collected seeds from the Waiahuakua population on the Nā Pali coast and distributed them to various botanical gardens around the world (Hannon and Perlman 2002). In the Netherlands, Plant Planet cultivates Brighamia insignis by the hundreds of thousands and sells them by the botanically inaccurate name “The Hawaiian Palm” (Robin Schaap, Plant Planet Manager, pers. comm. February 2013).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Major threats, that contributed to the decline of this taxon and of which the single remaining individual still faces, include predation and habitat degradation by non-­native animals, particularly goats that eat the plants and increase landslides in the natural cliff side habitat. Non-native, invasive plant taxa, such as Melinis sp., Lantana camara and Syzygium cumini, continuously contribute to the displacement of native habitat for possible recruitment of Brighamia insignis. A severe lack of pollination occurring combined with predominately self-incompatibility, is also a major factor to the decline of this taxon. The loss of its pollinator(s) is suspected; this is believed to have been a hawkmoth based on recent floral biological research (Walsh 2015). In addition, Fortini et al. (2013) characterized this taxon as extremely vulnerable to climate change (vulnerability index 0.867). Hurricanes are a major threat; Hurricane Iniki in 1992 wiped out populations that remained on the southeastern part of Kauaʻi.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Brighamia insignis has been listed as Endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species List since 1994, and also on the State of Hawaiʻi Endangered Species List. With less than 50 wild individuals remaining, it is also a focus of the Hawaiʻi State Plant Extinction Prevention Program. Conservation collections, ex ­situ cultivation, propagule storage and applied research to inform best management practices, has been ongoing at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), as well as other institutions locally, nationally, and internationally. NTBG has outplanted over a hundred B. insignis individuals at the Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the north shore of Kaua‘i. These plantings started in the living collection or lower garden portion in 1992 and in the Limahuli Lower Preserve in 2006 (Kava Vale, pers. comm., January 2015). Outplantings were also done at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the northeast coast of Kaua‘i by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and volunteers in 1995 (Jennifer Waipa, pers. comm., January 2015). The Kīlauea Point outplanting, however, was not self-sustaining and all of those planted have since died (Kim Uyehara, pers. comm., April 2013). None of the outplantings have ever produced viable offspring without intense human intervention (without collection of seeds, which were likely the result of hand pollination, and propagation in a nursery). Recent results of an ex situ genetic diversity study (Walsh 2015) have informed controlled crosses to increase heterosis spearheaded by NTBG and Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG). Viable seeds resulted from crosses conducted by staff at CBG. They sent half to NTBG for propagation and storage.

Citation: Walsh, S. 2016. Brighamia insignis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T44080A83789215. . Downloaded on 25 October 2016.
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