HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A decade ago, an indigenous relative of the hibiscus ― known only to occur on Kauai ― was recognized as extinct. The plant, scientists believed, was gone forever.
But the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai recently rediscovered the plant.
Researchers using drones to capture images of remote Kalalau Valley captured images of three individuals of Hibiscadelphus woodii clinging to a vertical cliff face.
The cliffs are known for their biodiversity because they’re inaccessible to humans ― and goats.
Scientists say the rediscovery underscores the value of using drones to survey for threatened plants and animal species, and offers hope that other “thought-to-be-extinct” species might also still be out there.
“Drones are unlocking a treasure trove of unexplored cliff habitat, and while this may be the first discovery of its kind, I am sure it won’t be the last," said Ben Nyberg, the botanical garden’s GIS coordinator and drone specialist.
Hibiscadelphus woodii was first discovered in 1991, and was officially named four years later. But in the late 1990s, falling boulders severely impacted the known colony. And efforts to propagate it failed.
Before the drone images surfaced, the plant hadn’t been seen since 2009.