You are here

Our Impact

Little known is the story of the Polyscias bisattenuata (`ohe`ohe) a critically endangered member of the Araliaceae (Ivy family) endemic to the island of Kauai. With fewer than 60 individuals in the wild, an incredible rescue effort is underway. In the last year, NTBG botanists, interns, volunteers and supporters like you have come together to make huge strides in saving this species. It is a story that must be told and we need your help to share it and make an impact. Meet the plant champions giving a voice and new hope to Polyscias bisattenuata and raise yours by making a donation now

Polyscias bisattenuata by the Numbers


Meet the Plant Protectors

Natalia - The Botanist

During the fall of 2016, NTBG Living Collections Botanists and Field Collector, Natalia, struck "botanical gold" when she discovered 34 Polyscias bisattenuata trees in five populations among the steep slopes and forest ridges of Haupu and Mt. Kahili on Kauai. Like many native plants in Hawaii, Polyscias bisattenuata is subject to predation by rodents and threatened by pollinator and habitat loss. Preserving its vulnerable fruit and seeds from predators would be a challenge and critical to conservation efforts.  No conservation challenge is too great when you have volunteers! Meet the seamstresses.

Maryann & Joanne - The Seamstresses

NTBG is fortunate to have a talented group of volunteer crafters that support the garden through the sale of artisan goods. When volunteers Maryanne Nordwall and Joanne Watson (pictured) heard about the plight of the Polysicas bisattenuata they offered to design and sew rodent-resistant bags to protect the precious fruit. They experimented with different materials eventually settling on woven plastic mesh sand bags which were, flexible and most importantly, unappealing to pests. Volunteers sewed more than 100 bags which protected the fruit until it reached maturity and was able to be harvested. 

The Interns

Rodents at bay and fruit matured, NTBG intern, Randy Umetsu from the Honolulu-based KUPU program, worked in the field with Natalia to collect fruit from the wild populations of Polyscias bisattenuata. Incredibly, Randy and Natalia collected approximately 55,000 seeds and added 50 accessions to the Garden's living collections. Next began the monumental task of squeezing out the seeds from the thousands of fruits to be cleaned, sorted, counted and potted. 

Ashly - The Plant Whisperer

NTBG Nursery Manager, Ashly Trask, knew that rodent predators would still need to be kept away from the precious seeds stored in the nursery. Nursery staff, volunteers and interns not only cleaned and sorted seeds, but also hand-built protective cages for the potted plants. Before long the nursery was a sea of bright green seedlings! Nearly 80% of the seeds collected survived and since fall 2016 NTBG has grown more than 6,000 Polyscias bisattenuata plants!  

Dustin - The Seed Banker

With so many seeds, the question arises: Can these seeds be stored for later planting? Seed storage behavior for Polyscias bisattenuata remains unknown but NTBG's Seed Bank and Laboratory manager, Dustin Wolkis, will continue to test the seeds' ability to withstand cold and dry storage conditions. 


Polyscias bisattenuata photos

Polyscias bisattenuata slider

  • polbis1

    Polyscias bisattenuata tree on kauai
    In bloom
    One of the few remaining Polyscias bisattenuata trees found on Mt. Haupu in flower
  • polbis2 - natalia

    Polyscias bisattenuata conservation
    Field work
    Field Botanist Natalia Tangalin examining a flower for viability
  • polbis3 - natalia bag

    Polyscias bisattenuata conservation
    Protecting precious fruit
    Natalia using bags to protect the precious flowers for future seed collection
  • polbis4 - rodent bag

    Protecting precious fruit
    Safe and sound seeds in a protective bag
  • polbis12 - volunteer

    polyscias bisattenuata, national tropical botanical garden, impact, conservation
    Cleaning Seeds
    Volunteer extraordinaire, Kimo, counting and sorting seeds for use in the nursery
  • polbis5 - seeds

    Sorting seeds
    Seeds being sorted for viability
  • polbis6 - sprout

    Seedlings
    Success! Seedlings starting to sprout
  • polbis7 - nursery

    NTBG Nursery
    The future is now - thousands of successful sprouts from the collecting of seeds being grown in the nursery for out planting and extinction prevention
  • polbis8 - helicopter

    Precious cargo
    Precious cargo being unloaded by Plant Records Manager, Kevin, for out planting in its native habitat on Mt. Haupu
  • polbis9 - planting

    Homecoming
    Living Collections Manager, Mike DeMotta and Horticulture Interns working on Mt. Kahili to plant out new trees on the step cliffs of the valley
  • polbis10 - planting 2

    Planting the future
    Rugged terrain on Mt. Kahili provides a perfect habitat for the trees, but a challenge for out planting
  • polbis11 - planting 3

    Seeds of knowledge
    KUPU Intern, Randy Umetsu working with students from Kamehameha students planting trees in McBryde Garden

Join as an NTBG Member Today!

Support NTBG by joining, renewing or giving the gift of membership today!

Become a member

Membership options and renewal