Alani (Melicope munroi)
|Listed||September 3, 1999|
|Description||A tropical shrub.|
|Habitat||Montane tropical shrubland.|
|Threats||Habitat destruction and introduced mammalian herbivores.|
The alani is a sprawling shrub that grows as tall as 10 ft (3 m). Its new twigs are minutely hairy, becoming hairless as they age. The leaves are arranged in opposite fashion on the stem. The leaves are broadly elliptical in shape, 2.4-4.3 in (6-11 cm) long, and 1.4-3 in (3.5-7.5 cm) wide. The leaf veins are oriented in a parallel manner, and exist as eight to 12 pairs connected by arched veins near the leaf margin. The leaf margin is sometimes rolled under. The leaf petiole is 0.2-0.5 in (4-12 mm) long. The flowers occur in clusters of one to three, and are located in the leaf axils. The inflorescence is borne on a stalk 0.4-0.5 in (10-15 mm) long, and individual flowers are on a stalk 0.6-1.4 in (15-35 mm) long. Male flowers have not been observed. Female flowers have ovoid sepals about 0.1 in (2.5 mm) long, and deltoid (or triangular-shaped) petals about 0.3 in (8 mm) long. The ripe fruit is about 0.7 in (18 mm) in diameter, and consists of four seed-bearing carpels fused over about one-third of their length.
The alani is pollinated by insects, which are attracted by nectar-secreting glands in the flowers. The means of dispersal of the seeds is not known.
The typical habitat of the alani is tropical, lowland, mat fern shrubland, at elevations of 2,600 to 3,350 ft (790-1020 m).
The alani is an endemic (or locally evolved) species that is historically known from the Lanai-hale summit ridge of Lanai and above Kamalo on Molokai. The Hawaiian archipelago has an extremely large fraction of endemic species in its flora; about 89% of the indigenous flowering plants occur nowhere else in the world.
The major threats to alani are browsing by introduced mammalian herbivores, especially axis deer (Cervus axis ). Also important are habitat changes and competition caused by introduced plants, especially Leptospermum scoparium and Psidium cattleianum. Catastrophic disturbance caused by a hurricane or wildfire is also a severe threat to this rare plant. In the late 1990s, the only surviving population of the alani was on the Lanaihale summit ridge, consisting of about 300-500 scattered individuals.
Conservation and Recovery
The endangered alani is a protected species, and it cannot be deliberately damaged, collected, or sold without a permit. The only known surviving population of the alani is located on non-federally owned land. The landowner has been notified of the importance of protecting this rare species and its habitat. It would be best if this critical habitat was protected by acquiring it and designated an ecological reserve, or by negotiating a conservation easement with the private landowner. The surviving population of the alani should be monitored, and research undertaken into its biology and habitat needs.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
Eastside Federal Complex
911 N. E. 11th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97232-4181
Telephone: (503) 231-6121
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services Field
300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3108
P.O. Box 5088
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850
Telephone: (808) 541-3441
Fax: (808) 541-3470
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 3 September 1999. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Endangered Status for 10 Plant Taxa from Maui Nui, Hawaii." Federal Register 64 (171): 48307-48324.