East Maui survey finds unknown plant species


POSTED: Sunday, April 05, 2009

Scientists believe they've found a new plant species in East Maui, according to the Nature Conservancy.

The nonprofit group said the discovery was made while it was conducting a survey in an attempt to obtain a “;good ballpark idea”; of how many rare species exist in an area of east Maui.

The undetermined species has been dubbed “;Melicope sp.”;

Nature Conservancy official Pat Biley said botanists have seen the undetermined species around Maui for years, but been unable to find any fruit, a common way to identify a species.

Surveyors working in cooperation with the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife found four of the undetermined species, including a single mature seed capsule.

Surveyors also found new populations of several plant species thought to be near extinction.

Among the most important finds were two species related to the fragrant Hawaiian mokihana and five lobeliad species, the Nature Conservancy said.

The survey stretched across 24 miles, ranging from the 2,700-foot level to the 4,400-foot level.