Snapshot: Cyanea’s African Relatives

Africa. Where the Pleistocene Megafauna still lives. While it’s easy to focus on all the large animals, Africa holds a specific interest for the Hawaiian plant nerd in me. For research (Givnish, 2008) shows that some of the Hawaiian Lobeliads closest relatives may surprisingly be a clade of African montane lobeliads.

Luckily, long time Manoa Cliff supporters and occasional volunteers Jim and Cindy Waddington recently came back from a trip to the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. They were able to find and take photos of the cousins to our Hawaiian Lobeliads.

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Wow! These lobelias of the Ethiopian Highlands are impressive! This is probably Lobelia rhynchopetalum. It, like the Hawaiian endemic sect. Galeatella, is semelparous. If you think it is awe-inspiring vegetatively, wait till you see it in full infloresence:

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Courtesy of Cindy Waddington

Excuse me while I pick my jaw off the ground! Maui might have Lobelia gloria-montis, but this is pretty darn incredible. Let’s close with an awesome shot I found on wikipedia with an endangered Ethiopia Wolf (Canis simensis).

via Wikipedia Commons

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Flowers of Ka’upulehu

Mao Hau Hele

I was finally able to visit the Ka’upulehu dryland forest near Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. After spending some quality time in that lava-strewn forest, I cannot say enough about that place. It was some of the most amazing, hopeful forest that I have ever seen here in Hawai’i.

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #29: Cyanea grimesiana

Cyanea grimesiana

Cyanea grimesiana ssp. grimesiana

  • Hawaiian Name: Kuenui?
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: O’ahu (Mt. Ka’ala, Ko’olau mountains), Moloka’i
  • Date photographed: 2/26/2014
  • Ease of viewing: outplanted
  • *Identification: Form- Sparingly branched or unbranched shrubs 1-3.2 m tall, muricate. Leaves- pinnately divided, blades 2758 cm long, 14-32 cm wide (across segments), segments 912 per side, petioles 8-32 cm long, muricate. Flower- calyx lobes ovate to lanceolate, 10-44 mm long, 4-14 mm wide, overlapping at the base; corolla greenish to yellowish-white, often suffused or striped with magenta, 55-80 mm long, 5-10 mm wide
  • Phylogenetic comments: The Cyanea grimesiana species complex has been subdivided into the following taxa: C. grimesiana ssp. grimesiana, C. cylindrocalyx, C munroi, C. magnicalyx, C. mauiensis, and C. grimesiana ssp. obatae.
  • My notes: The plight of this taxa in the Ko’olau mountains is simultaneously sad and hopeful. One last dying individual was discovered around 2004. It had very few leaves left. The prospect for fruit were slim. Tissue cultures of the lone individual were taken and plants were able to be fitfully grown in micro-propagation. In the intervening time, the original plant in the wild died. The healthiest of the propagated materials were eventually selected for outplanting. Long story short, this taxa came within a hairsbreadth of being extirpated in the Ko’olau mtns. While there is still a chance that unknown individuals are still out there, we are very lucky to still have this plant around.
  • Links: Cyanea grimesiana ssp. grimesiana 5-year review (pdf), Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, UH Botany, Native Hawaiian Plants- Cyanea

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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Snaphot: Hawaiian Avifauna

Hawaiian birds

The work by Dr. Helen James and Dr. Storrs Olson has greatly enriched our knowledge of the birds of Hawai’i. I’ve read as many of their *papers as I can. I was surprised to see this awesome mural when I visited the Smithsonian campus at Washington D.C. Aside from the speciose honeycreepers… look at all the other lineages represented in Hawai’i! Crows, Eagles, Flightless Ducks, Flightless Ibis; this great mural shows the other elements missing from today’s birdlife. Oh to have witness this firsthand…

*By the way, the 2011 paper on updating Hawaiian Honeycreeper phylogeny with respects to temporal events is a must read. Telespiza Finches nested deeper within the drepanididae radiation… yowza!

Lerner, Heather R L., Meyer, Matthias, James, Helen F, Hofreiter, Michael and Fleischer, Robert C 2011. Multilocus Resolution of Phylogeny and Timescale in the Extant Adaptive Radiation of Hawaiian HoneycreepersCurrent Biology, 21(21): 1838-1844.

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Why science blogs are the best thing on the Internet

Let’s skip the actual bad stuff like deviant solicitations and other such nonsense. Even without that, the Internet can be a rather not nice place. Negativity runs rampant in so many circles of the web.

From topics as disparate as Politics to Sports to Celebrities, things can rapidly devolve into personal attacks and flame wars. It’s enough to make you question your faith in humanity.

And yet, I feel lucky to be able spend my time trolling the internet and not really see much of that. Much of my time is spend on various science blogs and searching for neat peer-reviewed papers to read. Possibly by virtue of their small niche, science blogs don’t really generate that much inflammatory commentary. Granted, some blogs do. And certainly I can always chum the waters by superficially blogging about flamebait topics. Even when you do get the random inane comment on a respectable blog, the commentariat is pretty good about policing it.

For the most part people are looking to gather more information or it’s other scientist looking to add their knowledge about the topic. But it is not this Pollyanna, circle of peace and knowledge that is the best thing to me (Although it’s nice). What I truly love is the correspondence.

I love basketball as much as the average Chicagoan that grew up in the 80′s and 90′s. While the barriers are coming down, it would be pretty hard for me to randomly ask Michael Jordan about shot selection against zone vs. man d or his thoughts about the lack of post play from today’s nba guards. I can do that on science blogs. These are some of the top minds in their respective fields. Hero worship has taken such a negative connotation nowadays, but I’d like to think I treat these blog authors with that sort of respect. It is a joy to realize these people who’s books I grew up on are so easy to communicate with now. Try not to be too much of an adoring fan, Sebastian!

If I had one wish for 2014, it would be that the best things of the sciblog community spread to more and more parts of the Internet. Keep blogging and have a Happy New Year everybody!

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #28: Clermontia pyrularia

Clermontia pyrularia

Clermontia pyrularia

  • Hawaiian Name: ‘Oha wai
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: Hawai’i (Windward Mauna Kea; Leeward Mauna Loa)
  • Date photographed: 8/24/2013
  • Ease of viewing: Cultivation
  • *Identification: Form- Terrestrial trees 3-4 m tall. Leaves- narrowly elliptic rarely oblanceolate; blades 15-28 cm long by 2.5-5 cm wide; margins callose-serrulate; winged petioles 1.5-3.5 cm long. Flower- calyx lobes triangular, 3-5 mm long; corolla white or greenish white, 40-45 mm long
  • Phylogenetic comments: 2 papers have come out recently that show something interesting with the phylogeny of this species. Both Givinish, 2013 and Pender, 2013 have done DNA work on the Clermontia genus. In both papers, they surprisingly find that Clermontia pyrularia nests deeply with the genus Cyanea! It might mean that in the past there was some introgression with a Cyanea spp. or Clermontia as we know it is not monophyletic.
  • My notes: This was the species that I planted up at Hakalau. I thought it was a neat looking Clermontia; little did I realize what else lay in store.
  • Links: Clermontia pyrularia SGCN (pdf); Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands; Givnish TJ, Bean GJ, Ames M, Lyon SP, Sytsma KJ (2013) Phylogeny, Floral Evolution, and Inter-Island Dispersal in Hawaiian Clermontia (Campanulaceae) Based on ISSR Variation and Plastid Spacer Sequences. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62566. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062566; Pender, Richard “Flora trait evolution and pollination ecology in the Hawaiian lobeliad genus Clermontia (Campanulaceae)” Diss. U. of Hawaii, 2013, print

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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An Afternoon at the National Zoo

spectacled bear cubs

Back in September, I took a trip to see the National Zoo in Washington D.C. It was my first time there, so I was quite excited to see their collection. Naturally coming from O’ahu, I wanted to compare it to the Honolulu Zoo back home. The zoo had a number of animals that I was especially keen on seeing.

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