Potential Benefits of Growing Hawaiian Plants in Artificial Cultivation


Flowers of Ālula (Brighamia spp.) endangered species in cultivation

Ālula (Brighamia spp.), an
Endangered Species in Cultivation
Discovery Harbour, Hawaii
Photo © Edward Rau












Artificial propagation and cultivation of native plants in the areas where they are endemic or outside these areas (ex-situ) offers many potential benefits:

  1. Growing native plants of economic value in cultivation reduces pressures on wild populations from plant collecting and human intrusion into natural habitats to obtain plant materials.
  2. Artificial propagation may allow replacement of plant populations that cannot reproduce in the wild due to loss of pollinators, the presence of rats and seed consuming pests and invasive species.
  3. Native plants grown in cultivation can be protected from these threats by human intervention.
  4. In some cases, plants saved from extinction have not been successfully reintroduced into the areas where they were endemic so growing them ex-situ in artificial cultivation may be the only option to ensure survival.
  5. Improved cultivars with improved disease resistance or better cultural characteristics can be developed with resistance to stress factors in their natural environment or better adapted to conditions necessary forof artificial cultivation.
  6. Establishing populations of native plants in urban areas can provide replacement wildlife habitat.
  7. Native plants grown in urban areas with soils and climatic conditions similar to dryland forest may require little or no irrigation or fertilizer use once established.
  8. Rainfall patterns, vog levels and other climatic conditions of the dryland forest are often highly variable year to year. Native plants adapted to these variable conditions may be better able to cope with more extreme variations in these conditions associated with climate change.
  9. The use of native plants in agroforestry applications and intercropping with other crop species has received very limited research but may offer a wide range of potential agricultural benefits. These may include improved biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, less reliance on monocultures, improved bee production and pollination, reduced need for cultivation, irrigation and fertilizers, sources of locally adapted cover crops, support for populations of pest predators and capability to produce a more diverse array of products.
  1. Native plants could become new niche crops, providing a more diverse agricultural economy and jobs in the Kàū area, which has limited economic opportunities and high unemployment.
  2. Markets for native plants for use in sustainable landscaping and green roofs are improving. An array of federal and state regulations and sustainability rating systems for buildings such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system; the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes Certification system; and the Guiding Principles for High Performance and Sustainable Buildings applicable to federal buildings all require or give credits for use of native plants.
  3. In Hawaii, legislative changes adopted in 2015 now require landscaping projects of the State of Hawaii -developed buildings, complexes, facilities, or housing “to incorporate specified percentages of Hawaiian plants in order to contribute to a Hawaiian sense of place, to reduce the use of non-native invasive plant species, and to support the preservation of Hawaii’s cultural and ecological heritage”.