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Teminology



The greensword (Argyroxiphium grayanum) is endemic to Maui.
The ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) is endemic to Hawaii.

Often, you will hear terms like "indigenous" and "exotic" used to describe plants and animals in Hawaii.  Sometimes they are used correctly, but often, they are applied somewhat loosely.  Some of these terms are used to describe people as well, but when this is done, the words mean something different.  

Native: Species that got to the Hawaiian Islands on their own, without the help of humans. Under the umbrella of native species, there are two categories: indigenous and endemic.

Indigenous: Indigenous plants, birds, and insects are those that are native to Hawai'i and to other places in the world.  Many of Hawaii's indigenous species are also native to other places around the Pacific. For example, 'ape'ape (Gunnera petaloidea) is a large-leafed, moisture-loving plant that is native to Hawai'i and also to Costa Rica where it is called "Poor Man's Umbrella".

Endemic: Endemic species are species that are native only to Hawaii and nowhere else in the world.  Because of our islands' remote location, most of the native flora and fauna found in Hawaii are endemic to our islands. Some species like koa and ʻōhiʻa trees are endemic to all of Hawaii, while other species are endemic to a certain island, mountain or forest. Examples of these include the ʻākohekohe (crested honeycreeper) which is endemic to Maui Island and the Lobelia gloria-montis, a flowering plant that is endemic to the montane bogs of West Maui.  

Given time, it is possible for an indigenous species to adapt and evolve into an endemic one.  For example, 'Ape 'Ape is a water loving plant that thrives in gulches.  If, by chance, a number of individuals develop traits that allow it to survive in dry areas, and if these traits are inheritable and prevent it from reproducing with the original 'Ape 'Ape, then these dry-adapted plants would be recognized with a new scientific name and gain endemic status.  These new plants are no longer indigenous because they are found only on Maui.  This type of adaptation and speciation takes time, and may not happen within our lifetime.

Non-native, Alien, Exotic, Introduced:
These all mean the same thing - species brought over by humans or human activity, intentionally or not.  

Polynesian Introduction: When voyaging Polynesians first came to the uninhabited islands of Hawai'i, they brought with them certain plants and animals to be grown and raised for food and other practical uses. These Polynesian introductions are also known widely as canoe plants.  Examples include kō (sugar cane), kukui (candlenut), niu (coconut), and kalo (taro).

Invasives:  These are non-native, alien, exotic, and introduced species with a certain set of characteristics that enable them to quickly change their environment.  These species are dangerous to native ecosystems.  Get to know the top ten invasive species of the West Maui Mountains.

Naturalized:  These are non-native, alien, exotic, or introduced species that are so prevalent and well established that they are considered a permanent resident.