Extinct & Endangered Plants

Plants that are labeled as endangered are at risk of extinction. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 places animals and plants on a list that entitle endangered entities protection by the federal government. Usually plants become endangered by the destruction of their habitat. If nothing is done to aid the endangered plants they may become extinct.

Hawaiian Gardenia

Hawaiian gardenia (Gardenia brighamii) is known in Hawaii as nanu or na'u. It grows as a 15-foot tree with glossy green leaves that are 1 to 4 inches long. It produces solitary white blossoms that are trumpet-like in shape and up to 1 inch across. These grow on the ends of branches. The fragrance is close to the same scent as common gardenia flowers. These flowers open up in the late afternoon and stay in bloom for only 24 hours. In the natural habitat, Hawaiian gardenia live 65 years or more, but only 15 years in the home garden. Traditional uses of Hawaiian gardenias are in leis and as landscape plants. They usually grow in elevations of 1,100 to 1,700 feet. The Hawaiian gardenia is endangered because of destruction of habitat by grazing and browsing of domestic animals. Fire, soil erosion and competition with exotic plants are pushing this plant toward extinction.

Clover Lupine

Clover lupine (Lupinus tidestromii) is also called Tidestrom's lupine. The clover lupine is a member of the pea family that grows less than 1 foot off the ground. It has fan shaped leaves with three to five smaller leaflets on the stem. These leaves are less than 1 inch long and covered with short hairs. Blossoms are less than 1/2 inch across and range from blue to lavender in color. The seeds look like pea pods and contain five to eight seeds. The clover lupine is only found growing in the dune area of California at sea level to 25 feet in elevation. Commercial and residential development, exotic plant competition, high traffic by vehicles and people, sand mining and the disposal of dredging materials threaten to destroy this plant's natural habitat.

Michigan Monkey Flower

Michigan monkey flower (Mimulus glabratus var. michiganensis) is also called the yellow monkey-flower. The stems grow 17 inches long and run along the ground. Roots form at the leaf joints. The Michigan monkey flower produces bright yellow, snapdragon-like blossoms that are only 1/2 to 1 inch across. The lower petal has red spots. This endangered flower's natural habitats are springs, cold water streams, cedar swamps and mucky areas along the lakeshores. This plant's habitat is threatened because of recreational and residential development in north Michigan.


Nehe (Melanthera bryanii) is a perennial that grows 1 to 2 inches tall. Yellow flowers cluster on top of these stems. Its natural habitat is the grasslands and shrublands of Kahoolawe Island near Hawaii. It is listed as extinct because a nehe flower cannot be found in its natural habitat. The last sighting occurred in 1931. The greatest threat to the nehe habitat is through erosion, fire and the grazing by wild goats that are not native to the island.

Keywords: extinct plants, endangered plants, threatened habitat

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.