Military Preserves Endangered Plants

Kapua Kawelo
Kapua Kawelo

WAIANAE (KHNL) -- The U.S. military hopes to preserve some of Oahu's most endangered plants. Their goal is to collect seedlings and re-plant them in their native environments.

"This whole group of plants co-evolved from a group of honey creepers with those curved bills and you could imagine those bills fitting in there like a hand to a glove," said Kapua Kawelo of the Army Resource Program.

High above the North Shore, at about 2,000 feet above the ocean sits a brand new, but otherwise ordinary greenhouse. But what's inside is anything but ordinary.

You're looking at some of the rarest plants on earth. And in some cases the only plants of their kind. This is the work of the Army Natural Resource Program.

"This is our conservation green house. We grow endangered plants for their protection and then to plant them back into the wild to bolster their numbers," said Kawelo.

Like all federal agencies, the Army is mandated by the Endangered Species Act to preserve protected species. And here in the 50th state, there are many reasons to make sure that mandate is met.

"Hawaii is the endangered species capitol of the world so the plants we work with, some of them are not represented in the wild anymore, they don't exist there anymore and some of them are just really rare or severely threatened by pigs and goats and other invasive species," said Kawelo.

Everyone within the Army Natural Resource Program shares a common goal. To collect, and nurture the endangered plants from seedlings, to greenhouse, and hopefully one day, back out into their native environments.

"This plant is only known from one individual in the wild anymore," Kewalo said.

And with the gentle touch of the human hand, this fragile gift of nature is flourishing. And the humans couldn't be any happier. "

"I feel for me this was meant to be. I've always loved to hike and look at plants and see native plants and use them for lei making and all those things so it's really great to be able to give back to protecting those resources for future generations," said Kawelo.