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Rapid ohia death detected on Maui for first time

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Rapid ohia death, the fungal blight killing native ohia trees, has been detected on Maui for the first time.

State officials today confirmed they found a lone ohia tree, which stands 15 to 20 feet tall on a private property in East Maui, to be stricken with Ceratocystis huliohia, the less aggressive strain of the fungal pathogen. The tree is located a few feet away from a taro loi.

“This one tree is located away from other ohia trees, so this appears to be an isolated case,” said Lance DeSilva, the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s Maui Forest Management Supervisor, in a news release. “It will be treated immediately by torching or burning it.”

On Hawaii island, rapid ohia death has decimated hundreds of thousands of acres of mature ohia trees since at least 2014, but was limited to that island until state officials found the fungal blight in the Moloa‘a Forest Reserve on Kauai in May 2018.

Both fungal species — Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia — have now been detected on Hawaii island and Kauai. On Maui, only the less aggressive Ceratocystis huliohia has been detected so far.

Crowns of affected trees turn yellowish, and then brown, within days to weeks. The more aggressive strain, C. lukuohia can kill a tree within weeks, while C. huliohia can take months to years to kill a tree.

The state conducts quarterly aerial surveys on Maui, searching for trees suspected of having the disease. Typically, ground samples are sent to a lab in Hilo for further testing to confirm the presence of rapid ohia death. The next survey is scheduled to begin on July 15.

State officials, meanwhile, plan to educate Kipahulu and Hana area residents about rapid ohia death, and ask them to be on the lookout for other potential backyard ohia trees carrying the disease.

Anyone who suspects their tree has the disease should call the DOFAW Maui office at 984-8100.

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