Sanicula Purpurea

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Sanicula purpurea

No Common Name

ListedOctober 10, 1996
FamilyUmbelliferae (Apiaceae)
DescriptionStout perennial that reaches a height of 3-14 in (7.5-35.5 cm); bears purple or purple-tinged cream-colored flowers.
HabitatOpen 'ohi'a mixed montane bogs, or occasionally in 'ohi'a mixed montane wet shrubland.
ThreatsHabitat degradation by feral pigs, human trampling and overcollection, introduction of alien plants, low numbers.


Sanicula purpurea, a stout perennial herb of the parsley family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) that arises from a massive stem, reaches a height of 3-14 in (7.5-35.5 cm). The basal leaves are numerous and leathery in texture. The leaves, 0.8-3 in (2-7.5 cm) wide, are kidney-shaped or circular to egg-heart-shaped, with three to seven lobes. The small flowers are purple or cream-colored with a purple tinge and occur in branched terminal clusters, each of which contains six to ten flowers. Each flower cluster contains one to three perfect flowers and five to seven staminate flowers. The nearly spherical fruits are covered with prickles. This species is distinguished from others in the genus by the number of flowers per cluster and by the color of the petals.


S. purpurea typically grows in open 'ohi'a mixed montane bogs, or occasionally in 'ohi'a mixed montane wet shrubland, at elevations of 2,300-5,570 ft (700-1,700 m). Associated plant species include pukiawe, greensword, Lagenifera sp., Machaerina sp. ('uki), and Oreobolus furcatus.


Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, S. purpurea had historical occurrences at six scattered locations along the Koolau Mountains of Oahu and from four locations on West Maui. This species is currently known from four to five populations on Oahu and Maui. On Oahu, there is one population of six individuals in the Koolau Mountains on the boundary of state land and the federally owned Schofield Barracks Military Reservation; another population, last seen on the summit between Aiea and Waimano in 1985, was not seen during a 1987 survey and may no longer be extant. On West Maui, in the Puu Kukui watershed, S. purpurea is sporadically scattered along 1.6 mi (2.6 km) of the Puu Kukui Trail on private land. Two other populations are also known on state land, including West Maui Natural Area Reserve. The total number of S. purpurea plants on Maui in 1996 was estimated at 175-255 individuals; statewide, the total was estimated to be 181-261 plants.


The major threats to S. purpurea are habitat degradation by feral pigs; human trampling and over-collection, and the subsequent introduction of alien plants following ingress by humans through intact bog areas; and a risk of extinction through either random natural events or reduced reproductive vigor due to the small number of existing populations. The Kaukonahua-Kahana Divide population on Oahu is additionally threatened by competition with narrow-leaved carpetgrass, an aggressive exotic, and potentially by military activities.

Conservation and Recovery

The U. S. Army Garrison's five-year ecosystem management plans to protect endangered species, prevent range fires, and minimize soil erosion are expected to enhance conservation of the plants found on the army's Schofield Barracks Military Reservation.

The bog habitat of the S. purpurea plants in the Puu Kukui watershed has been strategically fenced by the landowner against feral pigs, and additional fences are planned to ensure the long-term security of this unique and important ecosystem. To prevent degradation of this bog habitat and unintentional trampling of the rare plants in the bogs, the landowner is constructing a boardwalk that will span the known range of this population of S. purpurea. A very strict policy is maintained by the landowner prohibiting entry into the watershed to prevent the inadvertent introduction of aggressive 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. 10 October 1996. "Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 14 Plant Taxa from the Hawaiian Islands." Federal Register 61 (198): 53108-53124.