After 10 to 30 years, the Mauna Loa silversword ('āhinahina) sends up a spectacular stalk of fragrant flowers as tall as 9 feet (over 3 meters), then it dies. Each seed it drops has the potential to begin a new generation.
Although they share the same ancestors, Mauna Loa silverswords are a separate and distinct species from those found on Mauna Kea or Haleakalā. These beauties generally sport fewer flower petals and their slightly thinner leaves are not quite as hairy as their kin.
Foraging ungulates (cattle, sheep, and goats) feast on the silverswords like kids devour ice cream. By the early 1990s, the entire species was limited to a handful of plants clining to survival at just a few remote sites.
Muscles, science and volunteers save the silverswords from extinction
Toiling on hard rock at high altitude, park crews erected miles of fence and smaller "exclosures" to keep out ungulates.
When the babies were old enough, park crews, botanists, students, and community volunteers transplanted more than 10,000 of those seedlings into the fenced exclosures.
Finally, in the spring of 2013, botanists were elated to discover dozens of new seedlings had sprouted in the exclosures. Now safe inside their fences, this wild seedlings are slowly returning to Mauna Loa.
Visit the public viewing area.
This short trail leads to 29 Mauna Loa silverswords that botanists planted here in early 2014. Some have already bloomed!
Join us in protecting these endangered jewels. Stay on the trail and do not step beyond the protective rope.