Cabbage on a stick, cabbage on a baseball bat: those are terms of endearment for the lovely and unusual endemic plants of the genus Brighamia. Though they may be found in tropical gardens and in nurseries, they are critically endangered in the wild here in Hawaii. There are two species: Brighamia insignis, called ‘ōlulu or ālula, with yellow flowers and coming from Kaua'i and Ni'ihau; and Brighamia rockii, pua ‘ala, with white flowers and hailing from Moloka'i. With the thick stem and sturdy leaves you'd be right in thinking they're succulents, and if you're growing them in your garden, they're not difficult as long as their feet aren't wet (and watch out for the slugs and snails, too!) They are usually three to ten foot high, rarely branching in cultivation, but can get as tall as sixteen feet.
Found naturally on steep cliffs and rocky outcroppings, their design allowed them to hang on during the blustery trade winds, but even these guys couldn't withstand the intense winds of hurricanes 'Iwa and 'Iniki, when many of the plants in Kaua'i were lost. Other issues including feral goats and the suspected loss of its natural pollinator have been devastating for Brighamia insignis. The National Tropical Botanical Garden reports that there is only one plant believed to exist in the wild in Kaua'i, and none have been reported from Ni'ihau since 1947. Many plants are being cultivated at Limahuli and McBryde Gardens, and may be outplanted in the future. I appreciate how they have really stepped up to the plate for this great plant.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.