Hokule‘a: National Environmental Issues
Fall 2013
Talia Rubnitz
Eternalizing the Endangered:
The Essential Role of Micropropagation in Hawaiian Plant Conservation
Currently, there is a lack of public awareness about the importance of plant conservation
and the methods that are used to preserve critically rare species. My project focuses on
the central role and importance of plant micropropagation in the conservation of
Hawaiian flora and the techniques used in this process. Micropropagation is the tissue
culture and cloning of plant materials. This practice increases the population size of
individual species in a relatively short time, thus saving dwindling species from the brink
of extinction. Through the Hokuleʻa Program, I spent four weeks in Honolulu, learning
and practicing many of the key aspects of conservation. I worked at the Lyon
Arboretum, an educational research center, which houses the only micropropagation
facility in the state. In the lab, I worked with taro (Colocasia spp.), a culturally
significant crop plant, as well as with an endangered species of mint. Varieties of taro are
being cultivated in order to safeguard genetic variations and preserve crucial elements of
Hawaiian culture, whereas the mints are micropropagated to proliferate them. Since the
two species have different growing points, I used distinctive practices on each that
catered to their unique methods of growth. Using Murashige and Skoog medium, I
successfully cloned these plants via in vitro cultivation and allowed them to thrive.
Through these processes, I was able to effectively propagate around 300 plants, thus
increasing the numbers of these species. The use of micropropagation in the conservation
of endemic endangered species in places like Hawaiʻi will preserve millions of years of
floristic evolutionary history.