Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Harbors a Plant Paradise
Along the wind-scoured coastal plain, the lone tendrils of an ʻae fern peer from cracks in endless flows of hardened lava. At the park’s mid-elevation, blazing blooms of ʻōhiʻa trees and towering fronds of giant hāpu’u, a tree fern, rise amid a tangle of misty rain forest. Miles above, the distinctive rosette of the endangered Mauna Loa silversword clings to an alpine ledge. Evolving over 70 million years ago in nearly complete isolation, more than 90% of the state’s native flora are found only in the Hawaiian Islands. Today, the national park harbors the descendents of those first colonizers—numerous evolutionary marvels such as mintless mints and nettleless nettles—plants adapted to life without plant-eating mammals. These are just a few of the amazing diversity of plants living within the park.
Sadly, Hawai’i faces an ecological crisis. Plants that have survived for millennia now face tremendous threats from alien invasive plants and wildlife species, creating great challenges for resource managers. Within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park are 23 species of endangered vascular plants including 15 species of endangered trees. The race to recover the park’s native landscapes and endangered plants is a major commitment of the Resources Management Division. The removal of alien ungulates such as mouflon sheep, removal of the most displacing invasive plants, and the planting of endangered and native plants are all priorities.
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Commensalism, or literally, "eating at the same table," is a relationship whereby one species benefits while the other neither benefits nor is harmed.
Video: Culturally Significant Plants
Last updated: May 14, 2021