Donation may preserve last specimen of endangered wild gardenia

Jamie Winpenny

WAIANAE — A Hawaii bottled water company has joined with two conservation groups to try and ensure the survival of the last known native nanu plant in the wild on Oahu. The nanu, or Gardenia brighamii, is a native gardenia and was located on State lands in the Waianae Mountains.

Gardenia brighamii, now nearly extinct, could once be found on all of the major islands except Kauai, in dry, rocky forest areas. Native Hawaiians used the wood to make anvils to pound kapa cloth, dye, and as posts for homes.

Although it is grown on a small scale as an ornamental plant for its fragrant blossoms, it has been decimated in the wild. The nanu can grow to as tall as 15 feet. Through habitat loss due to agricultural and urban expansion, grazing and trampling by feral pigs and goats, soil erosion, invasive species, and predation of seeds by rats, the number of nanu trees in all of Hawaii is now estimated at 20 or less.

A donation of nearly $3000 by Hawaiian Springs Water, which sources its bottled water products on the island of Hawaii, and the cooperation of the Hawaii Plant Extinction Program and Waianae Mountains Watershed partnership have given the last remaining specimen of nanu on Oahu a chance to survive.