Phyllostegia racemosa
Phyllostegia racemosa

Phyllostegia racemosa, or kīponapona, is an endangered climbing vine with square stems. The opposite leaves are oblong shaped and covered with short, soft hairs. The leaves have rounded teeth and measure 1.3-2.4 inches long and 0.6-1.7 inches wide. The white flowers are clustered in groups of 6-12 at the base of the leaves and the stems and densely covered with short hairs. The hard, dry fruit is typically 0.06-0.08 inches in length. This plant is also characterized by the ‘spicy’ odor of its foliage. Located from 4,650-6,070 ft, kīponapona primarily occurs in montane wet or mesic forest dominated by ‘ōhi’a and koa, as well as hāpu’u. Other associated taxa include ‘ōhelo, ‘ākala, and lau kahi.

It was historically found near Mauna Kea in the Hakalau and Saddle Road areas, as well as near Mauna Loa in Kūlani/Keauhou and Kīpuka’āhiu areas. Four populations are known to presently occur in the Kūlani/Keauhou area, at the Hakalau Forest Unit, and at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. These populations are comprised of 25-45 individuals. Seven individuals were present on the HFU in 2001 within the Upper Maulua and Hakalau Units. To date, roughly 1,043 kīponapona have been outplanted at the HFU. Of this total, nearly 775 were outplanted in 2007. 

Over 2,317 acres of critical habitat has been designated at the HFU, including Pua ‘Ākala and portions of ‘Āwehi, Honoli’i, and Kapu’e streams.  

Ungulates, such as pigs and cattle, are a key threat to the species. Ungulates have destroyed at least four plants in the HFU since 1994. Nonnative plant competition, logging, and volcanic activity are also suspected as reasons for population decline.  

Facts About Kīponapona

Phyllostegia are among the over 60 species of Hawaiian scentless mints, found nowhere else on the planet! Only two of the three indigenous species have scented leaves.