Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

An ohia tree on lava rock

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death or ROD is a fungal disease that is killing the ʻŌhiʻa tree, a species that is endemic to Hawaiʻi. The ʻŌhiʻa tree is commonly known for its beautiful red, yellow, and orange lehua blossoms and is important not only a pioneer species in native ecosystems, but it also has cultural significance as it is featured in many Hawaiian mele (chants) and moʻolelo (stories).

Scientists across Hawaiʻi are studying the disease and I had the opportunity to film USGS scientist, Kylle Roy, in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park as she talked about her work studying the ambrosia beetles that help spread Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. The footage I filmed will be used to create a video explaining the importance of brushing hiking boots and spraying them with an alcohol solution as a way to stop the spread of fungal spores.

Intern filming USGS scientist in a lab
Credit: NPS Photo/Jody Anastasio

Just like COVID-19, scientists are doing all they can to understand the cause of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death and circumstances that facilitate its spread to minimize the loss of ʻŌhiʻa trees and to hopefully find a cure for the fungal disease, but until then practicing a few simple precautions is a way we can all help. Boot brushing stations like this one are set at trailheads around to the park to give people the tools they need to do their part!

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