#OhiaLove - Help Save Hawai'i's Forests!
The Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Seed Banking Initiative is a new project that builds on the momentum of #OhiaLove. Thanks to funding from the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, UH Lyon Arboretum will be leading efforts to expand capacity for collection and banking of ʻōhiʻa seeds across all islands in response to the ROD crisis.
A recently identified disease called Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) has killed hundreds of thousands of ʻōhiʻa trees on Hawaiʻi Island and affected 34,000 acres. When healthy-looking trees begin to exhibit symptoms, they typically die within a matter of weeks. This fungal disease has no known treatment and has the potential to kill ʻōhiʻa trees statewide.
ʻŌhiʻa trees are the keystone species of our native forests, covering 865,000 acres statewide, and half of the native trees on Hawai‘i Island are ʻōhiʻa. Native birds, insects, and snails live in them and feed on them. Their canopy protects the innumerable smaller trees and native shrubs, creating the watershed that feeds our streams and recharges our water supply.
This tree also has immense cultural significance, symbolizing strength, beauty, and sanctity. It is considered the physical manifestation of Kū, one of the four principal Hawaiian deities.
The University of Hawaiʻi Lyon Arboretum Seed Conservation Lab is working to collect and preserve ʻōhiʻa seeds from all islands for future forest restoration, after the threat of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has passed.
This project will include:
• Collection trips to Hawaiʻi Island, by Seed Conservation Lab staff, to target high risk areas
• Day trips by Seed Conservation Lab staff, to target ʻōhiʻa species endemic only to the island of Oʻahu
• Collaboration with professional field botanists from partner agencies, who will send ʻōhiʻa seeds from other islands
• Work with UH & USDA scientists to optimize our efforts on Hawaiʻi Island
• Long term storage of ʻōhiʻa seeds in our seed bank
We have been storing Hawaiian seeds for 20 years, and we currently bank over 12 million seeds from over 500 native species. We and our partners are trained and experienced in seed collection methods for preserving genetic diversity.
The Seed Lab partners with the Lyon Arboretum Micropropagation Lab, the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, the State of Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the Hawai‘i Island Native Seed Bank, and other agencies to provide for both long-term storage for conservation, and propagation of plants for restoration efforts.
Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more
We are incredibly grateful to all who have already offered support, and to all future supporters! Mahalo nui loa for supporting our mission to save ʻōhiʻa seeds. If your question is not on the FAQ page, feel free to contact Marian Chau, Seed Conservation Lab Manager.
We would also like to thank our many partners on this project in addition to the ones listed above, including University of Hawai‘i Office of Communications, Friends of Lyon Arboretum, Lyon Arboretum’s Education Department, the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Working Group, the ‘Ōhi‘a Legacy Initiative, and our many other supporters.
#OhiaLove is dedicated to the memory of Whitney Reyes, whose passions included Hawaiian plants, Big Island, and conservation. Happy Birthday Whitney, your ʻohana loves you and misses you.