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Ohia lehua designated official Hawaii State Endemic Tree

  • COURTESY DLNR
                                Gov. David Ige waters an ohia lehua tree planted at Washington Place, Tuesday. Ohia has been designated as the official Hawaii State Endemic Tree.

    COURTESY DLNR

    Gov. David Ige waters an ohia lehua tree planted at Washington Place, Tuesday. Ohia has been designated as the official Hawaii State Endemic Tree.

Ohia lehua has been designated as the official Hawaii State Endemic Tree.

State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2059 during this year’s Legislative session to designate the tree, and Gov. David Ige today signed the bill into law at a ceremony at Washington Place.

Ohia is the most common native tree in Hawaii forests and is ubiquitous in lower elevations to Hawaii’s highest peaks, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a news release.

It’s found, for example, in the Puu Makaala Natural Area Reserve on Hawaii island and in the crater of Kilauea Iki at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where its growth is stunted by the environmental conditions but blooms profusely. It can also be found in the Waianae Mountains on Oahu, overlooking urban development on the island.

The species is being decimated by rapid ohia death, a fatal disease caused by fungal pathogens. It is found mostly on Hawaii island, but has also been detected on Oahu, Maui and Kauai.

“Ohia lehua is a symbol of Hawaii. As a keystone species it makes up fully 80% of our native forests,” Ige said at the ceremony. “Unfortunately, Rapid ohia death has killed more than a million ohia trees on Hawaii island alone over the past eight years. Providing this recognition for ohia will help spread the message about how important this species has been and will continue to be, to life in Hawaii.”

It is hoped that increased recognition of ohia lehua will emphasize the need to protect native forests from threats like ROD. Students and teachers, who were among the advocates of SB 2059, were at the bill signing ceremony today, which concluded a ceremonial planting of a young ohia tree at Washington Place.

“The students and teachers here today (at the bill signing) are a real testament to the important role education plays in protecting our fragile ecosystems and their importance to our way of life,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.

Case, Ige, First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige, Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Rep. Lisa Marten, and students from Kaneohe and Manoa elementary schools took turns shoveling dirt around the plant and watering it.

Correction: Kaneohe Elementary School students attended the bill-signing ceremony. An earlier version of this story said Waimanalo Elementary School students attended.
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