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Public campaign takes aim at Hawaii’s ohia wilt disease

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    Symptoms of ohia wilt include rapid browning of tree crowns.

State and federal officials have pulled together videos, maps and brochures about ohia wilt disease, hoping broad dissemination of information will make its way to members of hula groups and others who often collect ohia blossoms and leaves from forests for lei making.

The state is fighting to stop the spread of a disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of ohia trees on Hawaii island — threatening the health of Hawaii’s native watershed.

State Department of Agriculture quarantine rules prohibit interisland transport of any ohia plant, or even part of a plant, without an inspection and permit.

At a news conference Wednesday, officials with various state and federal agencies issued a reminder about quarantine rules, and asked the public to take measures to help stop the spread of ohia wilt, about which they have developed videos, maps, and brochures.

They hope the information will be widely used for events such as the Merrie Monarch Festival, where some participants collect ohia blossoms and leaves from forests to use in leis.

“We would encourage people to avoid the areas where the dead trees are,” state Land Department spokesman Rob Huff said.

If contact is made with infected plants, ohia wilt fungus can spread in a number of ways, including from hiking boots, vehicle tires and tools.

The ohia wilt disease, also known as rapid ohia death, was estimated to infest 6,000 acres from Kalapana to Hilo in 2014. Flint Hughes, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, estimated the infestation now covers roughly about 100,000 acres.

Hawaii island has more than 617,000 acres of forest, which is the main source of water, according to federal agriculture officials.

“We anticipate if we lose our ohia forest there’s going to be negative and cascading effects on native species that depend on ohia,” said Hughes.

Hughes, who works at the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, said the infestation has spread to new areas, including South Kona, Kau and the upper level of ohia forest on the windward side of the island.

The fungus known as Ceratocystis fimbriata invades the vascular tissue to the ohia, restricting the flow of water and causing death.

U.S. Department of Agriculture plant pathologist Lisa Keith said researchers suspect the fungus came from outside of Hawaii but don’t know its origin and haven’t found any similar infestation of ohia elsewhere.

“We think it’s unique to here and to ohia,” she said.

State information, including maps about the location of ohia wilt, are located at rapid; a video brochure can be found at

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  • This species will become extinct. We should begin to cultivate stock plants that can re-populate areas once the fungus is gone. Better hope might be a GMO solution.

  • Wonder if the problem is a breakdown of the Ohia’s trees resistance so it is not able to fight off the fungus as normal.
    The idea that this is is a previously unknown fugue from somewhere unknown does not seem plausible to me.
    Could it be a combination of the volcanic vog and the chem trail spraying that the government is involved in on a worldwide basis.
    Researchers looking into the chemical composition of these chem trails have shown them to contain arsenic, ammonia, aluminum, barium, strontium, mercury, cadmium,
    titanim, ethylene d-bromide, various kinds of mold and other substances, a kind of toxic chemical soup. This fine chemical spray is designed to remain afloat for a long time
    before settling on the ground.
    The chem trials occasionally show up on weather radar and have been explained as being aluminum chaff being used by the military in “military exercises”.
    You might remember being told about this when watching the weather reports on our local television stations by weather reporters like Guy Hagi.
    Reportedly, they are not supposed to be talking about this but the chem trails interfere with their weather radar.
    The Dept of Energy started the chem spraying under the Tropospheric Aerosol Program (TAP) in March, 2001. Other federal agencies involved are reported to be the EPA, National Science
    Foundation (NOAA), and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), although the government and these agencies have all denied that they are involved in spraying.
    It has been theorized that the spraying is an experiment in geo-engineering (weather control) and possibly population control by causing kidney, liver, heart diseases and cancers and other
    diseases which have become endemic for reasons which have not been explainable.
    Yes, I know this is difficult to believe but is so far fetched when we know the history of government involvement in doing medical experiments on people without their knowledge

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