silverswordStepping out of the car to explore Haleakala on the island of Maui is like setting foot on another planet.

Which isn’t far from the truth when you learn Haleakala has been training grounds for astronauts, more than once. The landscape is truly something to see but what I was most drawn to was the unique plants I kept seeing, growing out of the stark red earth.

I soon learned those plants are from the family ‘ahinahina, and it’s endangered. Each volcano has its own family of silversword, this post is mostly about the Haleakala silversword, which was the first of its kind that I saw.

Why are silverswords endangered? Well, the simple answer is humans can be assholes. There was a time when we took plants and rocks and other natural resources as souvenirs. I can’t say I have never done this. I admit I have taken shells from the beach but I have never thought, “hey, I need a plant. Let me snap part of this cool looking plant off”. I mean, it’s probably going to die by the time you get home from your vacation, right?

Silverswords have very fragile seedlings and a delicate root system.

silverswordIn the 1920s there were only about 100 plants left. Thanks to conservation efforts, the plant has been brought back to about 40,000. Fences have been erected to keep cattle from grazing and stomping the plants. Visitors to the park are asked to not go off trails and damage the seedlings and root system.  Warning signs were put up and non-native plants are removed by the park rangers. But that doesn’t mean it’s over. The silversword is still considered endangered.

And although silverswords are meant to survive in hot, dry climates, like the side of a crater, climate change may also threaten them. Temperatures are increasing and less rainfall may cause drought conditions. Researchers are evaluating the effects of drought on silversword.

Silverswords can live anywhere from 3 to 90 years but they only flower once and then die. They grow tall stalks and beautiful purple flowers bloom.

As the plant dies, the seeds scatter and create new lives. Talk about the circle of life.


Further reading:
Haleakala National Park
Hawaii Magazine

What is your favorite national park and why? Tell me below in the comments!


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Jenna Volden studied photography in high school and college but ultimately ended up with a business degree. After spending 10-plus years in the rat race she returned to her first love, photography by starting her own photography company. She can be found either chasing sunsets around the globe or making women feel like rock stars in her home studio. She is currently based out of Phoenix, AZ.

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This entry was posted in Conservation, Landscape Photography.

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