CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Brighamia insignis

K. Wood

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Brighamia insignis

Common Names: 
alula, 'olulu, pu aupaka
A. Gray
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife

Brighamia insignisenlarge
Photographer: K. Wood
Image Owner: National Tropical Botanical Garden

Brighamia insignisenlarge
Photographer: R. Yokoyama
Image Owner: National Tropical Botanical Garden

Brighamia insignis is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 

Brighamia insignis

There are two threatened Brighamia species that are endemic to Hawai’i (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] 2001). Current levels of wild seed production and regeneration are not thought to be sufficient enough to sustain wild populations. Poor seedling establishment due to competition with alien grasses is thought to be a contributing factor. The flower structure appears to favor outcrossing (pollination between different parent plants), however little pollination has been observed in wild populations. Some vegetative regeneration has been observed (USFWS 2000).

The number of populations and individuals are rapidly declining. Historically wild populations have been lost from Ni`ihau and Kaua`i. In 2000, USFWS reported five populations totaling 45 to 65 individuals (USFWS 2000). In one year, only 20 individuals in four populations were recorded (USFWS 2001).

This member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) is a potentially branched plant with a succulent stem that is bulbous at the bottom and tapers toward the top, ending in a compact rosette of fleshy leaves (USFWS 2000). It has clusters of fragrant yellow flowers in groups of three to eight in the leaf axils. Petals are fused into a tube 7 to 14 centimeters (3 to 6 in) long. The fruit is a capsule 13 to 19 millimeters (0.5 to 0.7 in) long, which contains numerous seeds. This short-lived perennial species is a member of a unique endemic Hawaiian genus with only one other species (USFWS 1995).

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Brighamia insignis
  B. insignis is found from sea level to 480 meters (1,575 ft) elevation on rocky ledges with little soil or on steep sea cliffs. They are found in lowland dry grasslands or shrublands with annual rainfall usually less than 170 centimeters (65 in.) (USFWS 2000).

Associated species with B. insignis include Artemisia sp. (ahinahina), Chamaesyce celastroides (akoko), Canthium odoratum (alahee), Eragrostis variabilis (kawelu), Heteropogon contortus (pili grass), Hibiscus kokio (kokio), Hibiscus saintjohnianus (kokio), Lepidium serra (anaunau), Lipochaeta succulenta (nehe), Munroidendron racemosum (no common name [NCN]), and Sida fallax (ilima).

  B. insignis was historically known on Ni`ihau and Kaua’i from the headland between Honolulu and Waiahuakua Valleys along the Na Pali Coast, and from Kaali Spring on the island of Ni’ihau. Currently, B. insignis is reported along the Na Pali Coast within or on the boundary of the Hono O Na Pali Nature Area Reserve (NAR), in Honolulu, Waiahuakua, and possibly on the Haupu Range on the island of Kaua’i (USFWS 2001).

Number Left
  Number of Populations: 4 (USFWS 2001)
Number of Plants: 20 (USFWS 2001)


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Hawaii S1 4/11/2002  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  • B. insignis is thought to be pollinated by native sphingid moths (Sphingidae family); however, pollination failure is common. This may be due to either a lack of pollinators or problems with breeding systems (e.g. self-incompatibility).
• Flower and leaf size seems to be influenced by moisture availability (USFWS 1995).

  Threats to B. insignis include browsing and habitat degradation by feral goats, human disturbance, fire, and the exotic Carmine spider mite (Tetranychus cinnabarinus), which has been observed as leaf herbivores. Competition from invasive introduced plant species such as Melinis minutiflora (molasses grass), Setaria gracilis (yellow foxtail), Sporobolus africanus (smutgrass), Lantana camara (lantana), Psidium cattleianum (strawberry guava), Psidium guajava (common guava), Kalanchoe pinnata (air plant), Ageratum conyzoides (maile hohono), and Stachytarpheta dichotoma (owi) is also a problem. Additional threats include a risk of extinction from naturally occurring stochastic events, such as landslides or hurricanes, and extinction due to the small number of individuals, and their restricted distribution (USFWS 2000).

Current Research Summary
  The seeds of B. insignis have been tested by the Center for Conservation Research and Training (CCRT) and the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), finding that they are orthodox and can tolerate freezing and drying. The laboratory germination time was one to two weeks (Yoshinaga 2002).

Current Management Summary
  NTBG currently has ex situ holdings of numerous seeds in its seed bank, which represents all four populations. In addition, there are plants that represent three populations growing in the nursery and 230 individuals representing two populations in the grounds of the Limahuli Botanic Garden and Preserve.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR, DOFAW) (Kaua’i District) outplanted 20 individuals of B. insignis at Kalepa and Nounou Forest reserve (USFWS 1995). There are plants in cultivation at Kilauea Lighthouse. Further reintroductions are planned.

Research Management Needs
  1. Wild populations of B. insignis need to be located and monitored.
2. Assess status of genetic diversity of B. insignis in the wild and cultivated populations.
3. Trial reintroduction studies need to be undertaken on secure sites for B. insignis.
4. Test the influence of weeding and fencing on populations of B. insignis.
5. Conduct pollination biology and seed dispersal mechanism studies.
Recommendations derived from M.H. Chapin, M. Maunder, and USFWS (1995).

Ex Situ Needs
  1. Establish secure ex situ stock with full founder representation.
2. Develop proper horticultural protocols and pest management for B. insignis.
3. Maintain the genetic stock of ex situ plants.
4. Survey ex situ holdings and conduct molecular fingerprinting.
Recommendations derived from M.H. Chapin, M. Maunder, and USFWS (1995).


Books (Single Authors)

Hillebrand, W. 1888. Flora of the Hawaiian Islands: a description of their phanerogams and vascular cryptogams. Carl Winter, Heidelberg, Germany; Williams & Norgate, London; B. Westermann & Co., New York. 673p.

Stone, B.C. 1957. Rediscovery of a rare lobelioid, Brighamia insignis forma citrina, in Kauai, Hawaiian Islands. 175-177p.

Wagner, W.L.; Bruegmann, M.M.; Herbst, D.R; Lau, J.Q.C. 1999. Hawaiian Vascular Plants at Risk: 1999. Honolulu, HI: Bishop Museum Press Honolulu.

Wagner, W.L.; Herbst, D.R.; Sohmer, S.H. 1999. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawai'i--Revised Edition. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press. 1853p.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Electronic Sources

Gustafson, R.J. Hawaii's Unique and Vanishing Flora: A Photographic Exhibition. [Web site] ¬ The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Foundation. http://www.nhm.org/research/botany/Hawaii_Vanishing_Flora/home.html. Accessed: 2002.

NatureServe. (2008). NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. [Internet].Version 7.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. Accessed: (June 17, 2008).

USFWS. (2001). Unpublished data. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817. Accessed: 2001.

Wood, K.R. (2002). The Brighamia of Hawai`i. National Tropical Botanical Garden. http://www.wildlifebiz.com/Bellamy_Good_News/documents/brighamia1.doc. Accessed: 2002.

Yoshinaga, A. (2002). Seed storage characteristics of Hawaiian species. [Web site] University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96848. http://www.hawaii.edu/scb/seed/seedtabl.html. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Christensen, C. 1979. Propagating Kauai's Brighamia. The Bulletin of the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden. 9, 1: 2-4.

Gemmill, C.E.C.; Ragone, D.; Perlman, S.P.; Wood, K.R.; Ranker, T.A. 1995. Conservation genetics of the endangered endemic Hawaiian genus Brighamia (Campanulaceae). American Journal of Botany. 82, 6 (supplement): 131-132.

Gemmill, C.E.C.; Ranker, T.A.; Ragone, D.; Perlman, S.P.; Wood, K.R. 1998. Conservation genetics of the endangered endemic Hawaiian genus Brighamia (Campanulaceae). American Journal of Botany. 85, 4: 528-539.

Hannon, D.P.; Perlman, S.P. 2002. The Genus Brighamia. Cactus and Succulent Journal Mexico. 74, 2: 67-76.

Koob, G.A. 2000. Cabbage on a baseball bat. Hawai'i Horticulture. 3, 6: 9-11.

Lammers, T.G. 1988. Chromosome numbers and their systematic implications in Hawaiian USA Lobelioideae Campanulaceae. American Journal of Botany. 75, 8: 1130-1134.

Lammers, T.G. 1989. Revision of Brighamia (Campanulacea: Lobelioideae) a Caudiciform Succulent Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Systematic Botany. 14, 1: 133-138.

Rock, J.F. 1919. A monographic study of the Hawaiian species of the tribe Lobelioideae, family Campanulaceae. Mem. Bernice P. Bishop Mus. 7, 2: 1-395.

St. John, H. 1969. Monograph of the genus Brighamia (Lobeliaceae). Hawaiian plant studies 29. Journal of the Linneaus Society, Botany. 62: 187-204.

USFWS. 1976. Proposed Endangered Status for 1700 U.S. Plants. Federal Register. 41: 24523-24572.

USFWS. 1991. Proposed Endangered Status for 23 Plants from the Island of Kauai, HI. Federal Register. 56, 210: 55862-55885.

USFWS. 1994. Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 24 Plants from the Island of Kauai, HI. Federal Register. 59, 38: 9304-9329.

USFWS. 2000. Determinations of Whether Designation of Critical Habitat is Prudent for 81 Plants and Proposed Designations for 76 Plants From the Islands of Kauai and Niihau, Hawaii; [Proposed Rule]. Federal Register. 65, 216: 66807-66885.

USFWS. 2002. Revised Determinations of Prudency and Proposed Designations of Critical Habitat for Plant Species from the Islands of Kauai and Niihau, Hawaii. Federal Register. 67, 18: 3940-4098.


USFWS. 1995. Recovery Plan for the Kaua'i Plant Cluster. Portland, OR: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.270.

Wood, K.R. 2002. The Distribution and Abundance of Brighamia rockii & Brighamia insignis (Campanulaceae) with an ecological description of B. rockii on the cliffs of Haupu Bay, Moloka`i, Hawai`i. Special Report Prepared for The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i. p.20. Technical Report.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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