Hawaiʻi has more than half of all of the endangered plants in the entire country, and the new Hawaiian Rare Plant Program Micropropagation Laboratory at the Lyon Arboretum is critical to their conservation.
“This facility is really important to Hawaiʻi because it houses some of the most endangered plants in Hawaiʻi,” says Nellie Sugii, director of Lyon Arboretum Hawaiian Rare Plant Program.
At 4,081 square feet, the new laboratory more than doubles the size of the old lab currently housed next door in a century-old cottage.
- Related UH News story: New Lyon Arboretum laboratory will expand Hawaiian plant conservation, June 7, 2016
“It’s going to be a big upgrade,” said Tim Kroessig, a UH Mānoa graduate student who works at the lab. “It’s really going to help us to expand our collections and to do better work with our collections and to keep them perpetuated farther into the future.”
The Hawaiian Rare Plant Program holds the largest collection of Native Hawaiian plant species in the world, with more than 16 million seeds and 33,000 plants in in vitro living collections from more than 500 species. The new laboratory bolsters Lyon Arboretum’s important work to store, propagate and eventually restore the plants.
“The work we do here is really important, because we are saving plants that are super rare, meaning 50 or less in the wild,” said Lauren Mau, a junior studying dietetics at UH Mānoa, who works at the lab. “Without the work that we do, the plants would most likely not be here anymore.”
Education is also an important facet of the new lab, which has large windows for viewing the collections and the technicians at work.
Peter Wiggin is a PhD candidate in botany, who works full time at the lab as a research support technician. He said it’s critical to educate the public about why it is imperative to care for native plants. “We have one of the most critically endangered, and exceptional, beautiful, special ecosystems of flora and fauna here in Hawaiʻi”.
Sugii added, “We definitely need students to go into science and have an interest in plants. I don’t think people realize how important plants are to our environment.”
—By Kelli Trifonovitch