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'Rock Star' Botanist Rappels Down Cliffs to Save Hawaii's Rarest Plants

  • Heidi Chang
Field botanist Steve Perlman has been at the forefront of protecting Hawaii’s endangered species for more than 40 years. He is one of the state's original 'rock star' botanists - literally. In the 1970s, he pioneered rappelling down high cliffs to save the Brighamia insignis - a rare Hawaiian plant commonly known as the Alula.
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Portulaca sclerocarpa grows on cinders and lava substrates. Threats to this rare species include introduced ungulates and plants, fires, and volcanic activity. (Photo by Josh VanDeMark)
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Portulaca sclerocarpa grows on cinders and lava substrates. Threats to this rare species include introduced ungulates and plants, fires, and volcanic activity. (Photo by Josh VanDeMark)

Cyanea stictophylla is a rare species of flowering plant in the bellflower family, known as haha in Hawaiian. It is known only from the rainforests of Mauna Loa. (Photo by Josh VanDeMark)
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Cyanea stictophylla is a rare species of flowering plant in the bellflower family, known as haha in Hawaiian. It is known only from the rainforests of Mauna Loa. (Photo by Josh VanDeMark)

The sap of the incredibly rare Hawaii tree cotton has been used by native Hawaiians to make red dyes for fishnets and its bark was used to treat thrush. (Photo by Anya Tagawa)
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The sap of the incredibly rare Hawaii tree cotton has been used by native Hawaiians to make red dyes for fishnets and its bark was used to treat thrush. (Photo by Anya Tagawa)

A population of Hibiscadelphus stellatus was discovered in a remote, steep valley on the west side of Maui in 2012 by Steve Perlman, Hank Oppenheimer and Keahi Bustament. (Photo by ©Hank Oppenheimer)
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A population of Hibiscadelphus stellatus was discovered in a remote, steep valley on the west side of Maui in 2012 by Steve Perlman, Hank Oppenheimer and Keahi Bustament. (Photo by ©Hank Oppenheimer)

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