Delissea argutidentata, thought to be extinct, was found in Hawaii


A rare plant thought to be extinct in the wild has been discovered in a crater in Hawaii.

The small population of Delissea argutidentata was discovered in March 2021, according to a joint news release Monday from Kamehameha Schools, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the nonprofit Three Mountains Alliance.

Three separate Delissa plants were found in a crater on land owned by the school system on Hawaii Island, the release said. The exact location where the rare plants were found is being kept private to protect the species. A protective barrier was also erected to keep them safe.

According to the statement, the newly discovered plants are being used to help regenerate their species. Seeds were extracted from the three plants in the crater, which grew into 30 seedlings.

Amber Nāmaka Whitehead, the school system’s natural resources manager, called the discovery “the first step toward a much greater focus on rare species recovery” in a statement.

“We need both: healthy native ecosystems and all our rare species. They are very important to our Hawaiian cultural identity and our health and well-being as a people,” he continued.

Delissea argutidentata has a long, branchless trunk that can grow up to 35 feet, the release explains.

The plant was last seen in the area in the early 1970s, the statement said. A single plant was found in 1992, but it died in 2002. Since then, the plant was considered extinct in the wild.

Colleen Cole, coordinator of the Three Mountain Alliance, an organization responsible for managing the watersheds of the Mauna Loa, Kīlauea and Hualālai mountains, called the detection of the three plants “an important message of hope.”

“In Hawai’i, there is often a lot of focus on loss (loss of species, forests, sacred places), and maybe that’s human nature, but Delissea reminds us to always nurture and make room for hope and discovery,” Cole said in a statement. “It was such an inspiring event and it means we can now reintroduce this plant in large numbers back into its prime, reminding us to be hopeful and vigilant.”