Nehe (Lipochaeta kamolensis)
|Listed||May 15, 1992|
|Description||Trailing or climbing aster with yellow flower heads arranged singly or in pairs and bearing grayish-brown fruits.|
|Habitat||Bottom of rock ledges in dry scrub or in dry lowland forests.|
|Threats||Habitat destruction by cattle and feral pigs, competing plant species.|
This nehe (Lipochaeta kamolensis ) is a trailing or climbing member of the aster family with a woody base reaching 1-9.8 ft (0.3-3 m) in length. The leaves are 1.2-2.4 in (3-6 cm) long, varying from long and narrow to triangular. The upper and lower surfaces of the leaves are covered with small flat hairs, and the leaf margins are lobed or deeply curved. The flower heads are arranged singly or in pairs and are about 0.8 in (2 cm) in diameter. Each flower head comprises six yellow, ray florets about 0.4 in (1 cm) long and about 15 disk florets. The fruits are grayish brown, wingless achenes.
L. kamolensis typically grows along the bottom of rock ledges in dry to mesic scrub or dry lowland forests at an elevation of about 820 ft (250 m). Associated vegetation includes 'a'ali'i, grasses, and lantana (Lantana camara ).
L. kamolensis had only been found at its original discovery site, on the southern slopes of Haleakala Volcano, until 1994. The site is approximately 11.8 mi (19 km) southeast of Ulupalakua Ranch office, a location given on some herbarium specimens. This population is near and just west of Kamole Gulch in the vicinity of Kepum Gulch, leeward Haleakala, at 755-951 ft (230-330 m) elevation. It is both above and below Highway 31, mostly on Hawaiian Home Lands, but with some individuals on land belonging to Ulupalakua Ranch. This population, which extends over an area of about 100 acres (40 hectares), contains an estimated several hundred individuals. An incomplete assessment in April 1994 recorded 107 individuals.
A second population of L. kamolensis was discovered in 1994 about 2.5 mi (4 km) west of the Kamole/Kepum Gulch population on Hawaiian Home Lands in Alena, just east of the Lualailua Hills at about 2,000 ft (3,218 m) in elevation. This population needs careful analysis before definitive statements can be made, but it appears to consist of a "hybrid swarm" of individuals of pure L. kamolensis and hybrids of L. kamolensis, and L. rockii. These hybrids cover an area of about 5 acres (2 hectares).
L. kamolensis is threatened by both habitat degradation and habitat invasion; the former caused by trampling and predation by cattle and goats, the latter caused by three agressive alien plants that spread widely in the 1990s on leeward East Maui. These invasive exotics—molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora ), Guinea grass (Panicum maximum ), and the leguminous vine Glycine wightii —possess the capacity to dominate the much-altered remaining habitat of L. kamolensis, although they are currently present at these two sites only in areas of limited cover.
Fire is also a major threat to this species since a single fire could extirpate one or both of the known populations. Fire becomes a greater threat as habitat degradation and invasion increases. The threat of stochastic extinction for species with few populations and small numbers of individuals is always present.
Conservation and Recovery
In August 1995, the Hawaiian conservation group Living Indigenous Forest Ecosystems constructed an exclosure fence to protect the Alena Lipochaeta population from feral animals. Cattle and goats were removed from the 2.25-acre (0.9-hectare) enclosed area, and hand weeding was conducted. The population of L. kamolensis is responding well to these efforts. Individuals of this species now cover some of the cleared areas within the fence.
Both known populations of L. kamolensis are primarily on Hawaiian Home Lands, in the recent past leased for cattle grazing. Some individuals are on private land. Landowner commitment to conservation is essential for long-term stewardship of the population.
For the original population, some sites do not need to be fully encircled by woven-wire exclosures; only short sections of fencing will need to be used to tie in with natural barriers. Near the highway, only domestic cattle need to be excluded. Approximately 660-990 ft (200-300 m) from the main road surface, feral goats are present and sometimes may be abundant. Protection of L. kamolensis at the periphery of its known range may involve full fencing for the more difficult task of excluding feral goats as well as domestic cattle. Portions of the populations should be left unfenced until the effects of protection from grazing and browsing, and increase in competing alien vegetation, are fully known.
Pacific Joint Venture
300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122
P.O. Box 50167
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850-0056
Telephone: (808) 541-2749
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. 15 May 1992. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 15 Plants from the Island of Maui, Hawaii." Federal Register 57 (95): 20772-20787.