CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Brighamia rockii

S. Perlman

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Brighamia rockii

Common Names: 
alula, 'olulu, pu aupaka, pua 'ala
St. John
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife

Brighamia rockiienlarge
Photographer: S. Perlman
Image Owner: National Tropical Botanical Garden

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

Brighamia rockii

There are two endangered Brighamia species endemic to Hawai’i (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] 2001). One, Brighamia insignis, is found on the islands of Kauai and Niihau, and Brighamia rockii is found only on the island of Molokai. Both have succulent stems that act as a water storage system for the plant, allowing plants to withstand periods of drought which can be common on the vertical rock sea-cliffs where they are found. Historically, native Hawaiians made trumpets from the hollowed out trunks of these species, and there are reports of it being cultivated on the island of Molokai as a remedy for consumption and other ailments.

B. rockii, a member of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) grows as a potentially branched plant 1 to 5 meters (3 to 16 ft) tall with a thickened, succulent stem that tapers from the base. This long-lived perennial has oval leaves that are widest at their tips and are arranged in a rosette at the top of the plant, resembling a head of cabbage. They measure 6 to 22 centimeters (2 to 9 in) long and 5 to 15 centimeters (2 to 6 in) wide. The fragrant flowers of B. rockii have white corollas with glabrous anthers and are clustered in groups of three to eight in the leaf axils.

B. insignis differs in petal color (with cream to yellow flowers) and has shorter flower stalks with longer calyx lobes than B. rockii (USFWS 1996). Another distinguishing characteristic between the two is that B. rockii has a distinct purple “trunk” during its juvenile stage, while B. insignis does not.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Brighamia rockii
  B. rockii is found on sea cliffs on the windward coast of Moloka’i. They are usually located in coastal dry to mesic forests or shrublands from sea level to 470 meters elevation (1,542 ft) (Wagner et al. 1999).

Associated species of B. rockii include Metrosideros polymorpha (ohia), Canthium odoratum (alahee), Diospyros sandwicensis (lama), Osteomeles anthyllidifolia (ulei), and Scaevola gaudichaudii (naupaka).

  B. rockii is endemic to Moloka’i and historically ranged along the northern coast of the island, from Kalaupapa to Halawa, and is now extinct from Lanai and Maui. Today, its range has decreased to scattered populations on steep inaccessible sea cliffs along east Moloka’i, from Anapuhi Beach to Wailau Valley on private land and on relatively inaccessible State-owned land east of Anapuhi, Huelo (USFWS 1996).

Number Left
  Number of populations: 5 (USFWS 2001)
Number of plants: <100 (USFWS 2001, K.R. Wood Pers. Comm. 2002)


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. rockii is a hermaphrodite that is presumed to be moth-pollinated. It has a protandrous reproductive system, meaning that there is a temporal separation between the production of male and female gametes (several days in this case). Only 5% of the flowers produce pollen, and very few fruits (20 to 60 seeds per capsule) are produced per inflorescence. Cultivated stocks exhibit some degree of incompatibility.

  Threats to B. rockii include the by competition of alien plants, habitat degradation and predation by deer and goats. Low reproductive rates could be due to a number of factors such as, low pollen production, low establishment of seedlings and also a decline of natural pollinators (USFWS 1996).

Current Research Summary
  B. rockii has been successfully hand pollinated and propagated by the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) (USFWS 1996). In February 2002, Ken Wood, of NTBG, hand pollinated cultivated stock with wild collected pollen (M. Maunder, pers. comm. 2002).

Current Management Summary
  There are three preserves operated by the Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i (TNCH) on the island of Moloka’i; Kamakou, Moomomi, and Pelekunu. TNCH has also employed snaring control and has also worked with state and local hunters to control feral pigs.

Seeds and plants of B. rockii have been collected by NTBG (USFWS 1996). NTBG is also propagating and researching the feasibility of long-term seed storage (M. Maunder, pers. comm. 2002).

NTBG currently has ex situ holdings of numerous seeds in its seed bank, which represents two out of the five populations. There are also some plants growing in the nursery and 14 plants growing in the grounds of the botanical garden which also represents two out of the five populations.

In April, 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that a designation of critical habitat was prudent for this species. (USFWS 2002)

Research Management Needs
  1. Implement a recovery plan for B. rockii.
2. A research program is recommended to study the growth and reproduction viability, determine the parameters of viable populations, study the reproductive strategy and pollinators, and study pests and possible diseases of B. rockii.
3. Map genetic diversity in the surviving populations of B. rockii.
4. Test the influence of weeding and fencing on populations of B. rockii.
Recommendations derived from M. Maunder and USFWS (1996).

Ex Situ Needs
  1. Propagation and maintenance of genetic stock ex situ and protection of remaining wild individuals of B. rockii from threats are a necessity.
2. Survey ex situ holdings and conduct molecular fingerprinting.
3. Breeding biology research is urgently required. Cultivated stocks demonstrate a very low level of seed set.
4. Establish secure ex situ stocks with full founder representation.
5. Develop proper horticultural protocol and pest management for B. insignis.
Recommendations derived from M.H. Chapin, M. Maunder, K.R. Wood and USFWS (1996).


Books (Single Authors)

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.

Electronic Sources

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.

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.

Lammers, T.G. 1989. Revision of Brighamia-campanulaceae lobelioideae a caudiiciform succulent endemic to the Hawaiian Islands USA. Systematic Botany. 14, 1: 133-138.

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

USFWS. 1991. Proposed Endangered or Threatened Status for 16 Plants from the Island of Molokai, HI. Federal Register. 56, 183

USFWS. 1992. Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 16 Plants from the Island of Molokai, HI. Federal Register. 57, 196: 46325-46344.

USFWS. 1992. Final Listing Rules Approved for 21 Species During July/October 1992. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 17, 9-11: 9.

USFWS. 2000. Determinations of Whether Designation of Critical Habitat Is Prudent for 20 Plant Species and the Proposed Designations of Critical Habitat for 32 Plant Species From the Island of Molokai, HI. Federal Register. 65, 251: 83158-83216.

USFWS. 2002. Revised Determinations of Prudency and Proposed Designations of Critical Habitat for Plant Species From the Island of Lanai, HI. Federal Register. 67, 42: 9806-9871.

USFWS. 2002. Revised Determinations of Prudency and Proposed Designations of Critical Habitat for Plant Species From the Island of Molokai, Hawaii. Federal Register. 67, 66: 16492-16579.

USFWS. 2002. Revised Determinations of Prudency and Proposed Designations of Critical Habitat for Plant Species From the Islands of Maui and Kahoolawe. Federal Register. 67, 64: 15856-15987.

Newspaper Articles

Vogel, S. 2001 Friday, April 27, 2001. In bloom: Flower show emphasizes native species. Honolulu Star-Bulletin; Honolulu, HI.


MISC. 2001. Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC), Pulling Together Initiative. 2002 Project Proposal. Submitted to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. p.14.

USFWS. 1996. Recovery Plan for the Molokai Plant Cluster. Portland, OR: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.143.

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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