(CNN) — A rare plant thought to be extinct in the wild has been discovered inside a crater in Hawaii.
The tiny population of Delissea argutidentata was discovered in March 2021, according to a joint press release from Kamehameha Schools, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the nonprofit Three Mountains Alliance, released Monday.
Three different plants were found Delissea in a crater on land owned by the school system on the island of Hawaii, the statement said. The exact location where the extremely rare plants were found is being kept secret to protect the species. A protective fence has also been installed to keep them safe.
The newly discovered plants are already being used to help replenish their species, according to the release. The seeds of the three plants were recovered from the crater and developed into 30 seedlings.
The school system’s natural resources manager, Amber Nāmaka Whitehead, called the discovery “the first step toward a much greater focus on rare species recovery,” in the statement.
“We need both: healthy native ecosystems and each of our rare species. They are very important to our Hawaiian cultural identity and to our health and well-being as a people,” he added.
The Delissea argutidentata It has a long trunk without branches, which can measure up to 10 meters, explains the statement.
The plant was last seen in the area in the early 1970s, according to the statement. A single plant was found in 1992, but it died in 2002. Since then, the plant was considered extinct in the wild.
Colleen Cole, coordinator of the Three Mountains Alliance, an organization dedicated to managing the watersheds of the Mauna Loa, Kīlauea and Hualālai mountains, called the detection of the three plants “an important message of hope.”
“In Hawaii, a lot of attention is often paid to loss: loss of species, loss of forests, loss of sacred sites, and maybe it’s human nature, but the Delissea reminds us that hope and discovery must always be nurtured and accommodated,” Cole said in the statement.
“This has been such an inspiring development that it means we can now reintroduce this plant in large numbers to its former range, reminding us to remain hopeful and vigilant.”