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Abundance of Silverswords in Bloom at Haleakalā

July 30, 2014
Yellow faced bee pollinating a silversword. Photo courtesy of researcher Paul Krushelnycky

Yellow faced bee pollinating a silversword. Photo courtesy of researcher Paul Krushelnycky

Numerous `āhinahina (silversword plants), found nowhere else on earth, are in bloom at Haleakalā.

Intern Jesse Felts at silversword greenhouse explains the year-long study to visitors. Photo courtesy of NPS

Intern Jesse Felts at silversword greenhouse explains the year-long study to visitors. Photo courtesy of NPS

“Long term residents and park staff say this is one of the best years they’ve seen for flowers up here,” said Superintendent Natalie Gates. “A large silversword can produce several thousand viable seeds, which then must take root in the summit’s harsh environment. We hope neighbors and visitors alike will come enjoy this incredible sight.” She added a reminder that “the easiest thing we can all do to help these threatened plants is to stay on trails so we don’t crush existing roots or new seedlings.”

Silversword partial bloom at summit. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis

Silversword partial bloom at summit. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis

Visitors will also see the yellow-faced bee pollinating the `āhinahina. This bee, which is only found in Hawai‘i, is the primary pollinator of the silversword. The bee is preyed upon by non-native ants and wasps. Visitors can help protect this bee species from predators by not littering and by picking up trash.

6 foot tall silverswords along Sliding Sands trail. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis.

6 foot tall silverswords along Sliding Sands trail. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis.

The park is in the final months of a year-long study to determine possible effects of climate change on the Haleakalā `āhinahina. Visitors can stop by greenhouses near Headquarters Visitor Center or Haleakalā Visitor Center to learn more about this research.

Silverswords blooming along Sliding Sands Trail landscape view. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis

Silverswords blooming along Sliding Sands Trail landscape view. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis

Visitors can see `āhinahina in bloom at the summit, at the Kalahaku Overlook, or on 4-6 mile round trip hikes into the summit basin via the Sliding Sands Trail. Hikers should dress in layers for changing weather conditions, wear sturdy shoes, and bring water, food, and sunscreen. It can take twice as long to hike up and out of the crater as it does to hike in so visitors should plan their trips accordingly.

Silversword pre bloom at the summit. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis

Silversword pre bloom at the summit. Photo courtesy of Polly Angelakis

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Steve White permalink
    August 16, 2014 9:49 am

    Silversword Bloom Research

    Do you have any new research on the instigating factors for these intense blooms?

    I remember that there were bloom spikes after periods of volcanic eruptions, like immediately after the Mount Pinatubo eruption. A theory of that time was that the parts per million (ppm) of volcanic ash in the atmosphere was a trigger.

    This idea made sense for the perpetuation of the species over the millennia during historical eruptive phases near the Ahinanina’s home base. Since very little ash from Maui volcanic activity would start the reproductive cycle now (and in the foreseeable future), the plant’s ppm trigger would increase in sensitivity as it would be it’s only built-in reproductive marker.

    The Silverswords on the the Big Island are also having a substantial bloom this year. Was there any volcanic dust released from Mauna Loa or Kilauea? Is that information tracked or studied by any research entity? Although the Big Islands’ sulphuric Vog often sweeps Maui way, the lack of volcanic ash in Vog would keep modern Hawaiian volcanic activity without ash release from being the trigger. Or would it?

    Any thoughts?

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