Haleakala Silverswords

Silversword in bloom
Haleakala silversword in full bloom.

NPS Photo

The silvery hairs, fleshy leaves, and low-growing rosette form of the Haleakala silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum) allow it to survive in hot, dry climates like the aeolian desert cinder slopes of the crater. Silverswords live between 3 and 90 years or more. They flower once, sending up a spectacular flowering stalk, and then die soon afterward, scattering drying seeds to the wind.

Delicate silverswords ('ahinahina), once ripped up and taken home by visitors as souvenirs, now depend on management efforts for survival. Park staff fence silversword-munching ungulates out, destroy non-native plants that would crowd out silverswords, and educate park visitors to stay on trails to avoid stepping on fragile silversword seedlings and root systems.

Silversword seed collection
Park biotech Lindsay Moore collects seeds from a flowering Haleakala silversword for propagation. Juvenile silverswords grown in park greenhouses will be outplanted to supplement wild populations.

NPS Photo

Climate change may now present a new threat to these charismatic plants. Hotter temperatures and lower rainfall may threaten even the hardy silversword. Researchers with the University of Hawai'i are actively working with park staff to evaluate the effects of drought conditions on silverswords, and preserve these unique plants for generations to come.


Last updated: August 15, 2020

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Haleakalā National Park
PO Box 369

Makawao , HI 96768


808 572-4400

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