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Canavalia molokaiensis

ListedOctober 8, 1992
FamilyLeguminosae (Fabaceae)
DescriptionPerennial climbing herb with twining branches and lance-shaped or oval leaves.
HabitatExposed dry sites on steep slopes in mesic shrublands and forests.
ThreatsHabitat disturbance, predation by wild, feral, or domestic animals.


'Awikiwiki (Canavalia molokaiensis ) is a perennial climbing herb of the pea family (Fabaceae) with twining branches. Each leaf is made up of three lance-shaped or sometimes oval leaflets that usually measure 1.4-3 in (3.6-7.6 cm) long and 0.5-2.1 in (1.3-5.3 cm) wide. Four to 15 flowers are arranged along a stalk 1.2-3.5 in (3-9 cm) long. The calyx (fused sepals), which is 0.8-1.1 in (2-2.8 cm) long, comprises a larger upper lip with two lobes and a smaller lower lip with three lobes. The five rose-purple petals vary from 1.4-1.9 in (3.6-4.8 cm) in length. The flattened pods, 4.7-6.3 in (12-16 cm) long and 0.9-1.4 in (2.3-3.6 cm) wide, enclose flattened, dark reddish-brown, and oblong-elliptic seeds that are 0.7-0.9 in (1.8-2.3 cm) long and about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) wide. C. molokaiensis the only species of its genus found on the Hawaiian island of Molokaican be distinguished from others in the genus by its narrower leaflets and its larger, rose-purple flowers.

This species was observed in flower during May and December 1989. Fruits and flowers were observed in March.


C. molokaiensis typically grows in exposed dry sites on steep slopes in mesic shrublands and forests at elevations of 2,790-3,050 ft (850-930 m). Associated plant species are 'ohi'a, Chamaesyce, Dodonaea viscosa, Styphelia tameiameiae, and Wikstroemia.


C. molokaiensis had historical occurrences on East Molokai at Kalaupapa, Pelekunu, and farther south in Kahuaawi Gulch and the region of Manawai. Its more restricted range in the late 1990s was confined to the area from Kalaupapa to Waialeia, Kaunakakai, and Kamakou. The seven known populations of less than 1,000 total individuals are distributed over an 7-mi by 3.5-mi (11-km by 5.5-km) area on state and private land, as well as on land leased by the National Park Service from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The largest population of roughly 20 plants lies within an area of 0.2 acres (0.08 hectares).


Hoofed mammals, particularly goats and pigs, degrade the habitat of C. molokaiensis extensively and pose an immediate threat to this plant. Predation on a related species of Canavalia suggests that goats may possibly consume this species. Competition with the alien plant molasses grass is also an immediate threat.

Conservation and Recovery

Seeds of C. molokaiensis have been collected and propagated by the National Tropical Botanical Garden.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
Eastside Federal Complex
911 N. E. 11th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97232-3441
Telephone: (503) 231-3470

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pacific Remote Islands Ecological Services Field Office
300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-122
P.O. Box 50088
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850-5000
Telephone: (808) 541-3441
Fax: (808) 541-34702586



U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 8 October 1992. "Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 16 Plants from the Island of Molokai, Hawaii." Federal Register 57 (196): 46325-46340.

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