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Alsinidendron lychnoides

ListedOctober 10, 1996
FamilyCaryophyllaceae (Pink)
DescriptionWeakly climbing or sprawling subshrub; woody at the base and densely covered with fine glandular hairs.
HabitatMontane wet forest.
ThreatsCompetition from the aggressive alien plant prickly Florida blackberry; habitat degradation by feral pigs; trampling by humans.


Alsinidendron lychnoides, or kuawawaenohu, a member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae), is a weakly climbing or sprawling subshrub. The main stems are 1.3-9.8 ft (0.4-3 m) long with short side branches. The plant is woody, at least at the base, and densely covered with fine glandular hairs throughout. The thin leaves are egg-shaped to elliptic and are 1.4-2.6 in (3.5-6.6 cm) long and 0.6-1.5 in (1.5-3.8 cm) wide. Scattered clusters of 18-21 flowers range from 0.8-0.9 in (2-2.3 cm) in length. The four sepals are white and thin, and remain so at maturity. The outer two sepals greatly overlap the inner ones. The sepals are oblong-ovate, 0.4-0.5 in (1-1.3 cm) long, but enlarge to 0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.5 cm) long in fruit, completely enclosing the fruit at maturity. The stamens are scarcely fused at the base with basal outgrowths 0.1 in (cm) long, nearly as wide, and two-to three-toothed. The fruit are egg-shaped capsules, 0.4-0.5 in (1-1.3 cm) long, with 0.04 in (0.1 cm) long with low transverse ridges on the surface. This species is distinguished from others in this endemic Hawaiian genus by the weakly climbing or sprawling habit, color of the sepals, number of flowers per cluster, and size of the leaves. A. lychnoides is closely related to A. viscosum, which differs primarily in having narrower leaves, fewer capsule valves, and fewer flowers per cluster.


A. lychnoides typically grows in montane wet forest dominated by Metrosideros polymorpha ('ohi'a) and Cheirodendron sp. ('olapa), or by 'ohi'a and Dicranopteris linearis (uluhe), trailing on the ground or on other vegetation, and at elevations between 3,600 and 4,330 ft (1,097.3 and 1,310.6 m). Associated plant species include Athyrium sp., Carex sp., Cyrtandra sp. (ha'iwale), Machaerina sp. ('uki), Vaccinium sp. ('ohelo), Peperomia sp. ('ala 'ala wai nui), Hedyotis terminalis (manono), Astelia sp. (pa'iniu), and Broussaisia arguta (kanawao).


A. lychnoides was found historically on the island of Kauai at the east rim of Kalalau Valley near Keanapuka, the western and southeastern margins of the Alakai Swamp, and southwest of the Swamp near Kaholuamano on the island of Kauai. This species now occurs on state-owned land in the Alakai Swamp, including the Alakai Wilderness Preserve, and on state-owned land on the east rim of Kalalau Valley. This latter population occurs on the boundary of Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve and Na Pali Coast State Park. The four known populations contain a total of between 50 and 100 plants.


The major threats to A. lychnoides are competition from the aggressive alien plant prickly Florida blackberry, habitat degradation by feral pigs, and trampling by humans. The Alakai Wilderness and Keanapuka populations of this species are especially threatened by feral pigs and prickly Florida blackberry.

A. lychnoides has populations close to trails or roads that are easily accessible to possible overcollection by plant enthusiasts.

This species is considered to be immediately threatened by recreational use in the areas in which it occurs. This species is also threatened by a risk of extinction from landslides, hurricanes, and other natural events; reduced reproductive vigor due to the small number of extant individuals and their limited distributions will remain a continuing threat until populations recover.

One plant has died since Hurricane 'Iniki struck Kauai in September 1992.

Conservation and Recovery

Wild seeds were collected on the trail between Pihea and Alakai Swamp Trail in February 1995.

More than 40,000 seeds were in storage at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in 1997, but the viability of those seeds is likely to be low. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Seed Storage Laboratory is currently testing this species for potential cryopreservation as a method of long-term storage. Completion of the Alakai Wilderness Preserve board walk will help reduce potential trampling by humans, as well as reduce the spread of alien plants.


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. 1988. "Kauai II: Addendum to the Recovery Plan for the Kauai Plant Cluster." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. 84+ pp.