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Plant cam keeps eye on rare Hawaiian plant

Nina Wu
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“Caly” is a rare endemic plant — a Cyanea calycina, or haha in Hawaiian.

Deep in the Honouliuli Forest Reserve, high in Oahu’s Waianae Mountains, a sophisticated monitoring station is watching a rare endemic plant — a Cyanea calycina, or haha in Hawaiian — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The plant, nicknamed “Caly,” is one of fewer than 200 members of this species left on Oahu.

A remote camera and monitoring station produces real-time views of Caly, as well as time-lapses of the plant and of the broader landscape, including storm systems that pass over the Waianae range. Images and data are transmitted to Honolulu for distribution.

“Rare plants are difficult to see, especially on Oahu,” said Susan Ching, a state botanist in a news release. “People don’t easily get a glimpse into their lives, where they live and how they interact with other plants. The Hawaiian people were very connected to the forest and they treated these plants, like haha, with reverence and respect. This modern technology provides a glimpse into the past; since this group of plants arrived on the islands 13 million years ago and documents one plant’s life well into the future.”

The project, led by Lucas Fortini, a research ecologist at the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, helps researchers understand the biology of the endangered plant and monitor how it reacts to changes in the environment.

The plantcam — a partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Hawaii, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Department of Forestry and Wildlife — is available to the anyone around the world.

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