Silverswords Leave Haleakala to Journey to Korea for the First Time Off-Island

Silversword specimens are inspected by Lance Otsubo (2nd from right) of the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine program. Joining Otsubo are Teena Rasmussen (far left), Director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, Floral Designer Asa Ige (2nd from left) and Haleakala National Park Botanist Steve Anderson.

Silversword specimens are inspected by Lance Otsubo (2nd from right) of the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine program. Joining Otsubo are Teena Rasmussen (far left), Director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, Floral Designer Asa Ige (2nd from left) and Haleakala National Park Botanist Steve Anderson.

Three Silversword specimens were recently sent to South Korea to be highlighted in the Goyang International Horticulture Show. The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development secured the necessary permits to take the specimens from the greenhouse at Haleakala National Park (HNP) to be preserved by specialists and displayed at Goyang’s rare plant exhibit. The Haleakala ‘Ahinahina or Silversword is a federally-listed “Threatened” species found only on the upper slopes of Haleakala.

Teena Rasmussen, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, said this is the first time the species has been sent abroad for exhibition since 1992 when the Haleakala ‘Ahinahina was listed as a federally Threatened Species. “It took us nine months to secure all the necessary permits to export the specimens, including permission from the National Park Service and permits from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Rasmussen said.

The County of Maui will have a large booth at the horticulture show in which half of the display space will be devoted to showcasing Haleakala National Park and the rare Silversword. HNP Park Ranger Stephen Anderson is attending the show and will be in the booth speaking about the rare plant. Anderson, a botanist, will provide information about the Haleakala `Ahinahina, the critical habitat on which it depends, and ongoing research to protect the species. Anderson will also highlight the simple steps park visitors can take to protect the `Ahinahina and the importance of the park’s “Stay on Trail!” motto. He also will describe ecosystem management efforts to spur its recovery. The other half of the Maui County booth will focus on Maui’s rainforests, beaches and tropical flowers. Maui floral designer Asa Ige was hired to design the booth and has traveled to South Korea with the Silversword plants.

“The Silversword is an important native plant, culturally and ecologically for Maui and we are proud to share it with the people of Goyang,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa said. “South Korean visitors are known for their love of hiking, wildlife and the outdoors so this is also an important outreach for our tourism industry. This is truly a great opportunity to help preserve this beautiful plant while educating the world about the impacts of climate change on our environment, especially on rare and fragile plants like this.”

Mayor Arakawa said that Goyang had been interested in displaying the Silversword from the moment it became “a Sister City” 2011

The Silversword plants were grown in the HNP greenhouse as part of an experiment testing the effects of climate change on native Hawaiian vegetation, according to HNP Superintendent Natalie Gates. “The plants were not collected from natural habitat for this exhibit since all natural and cultural resources in the park are protected and cannot be removed,” Gates said. “The Goyang Flower Show allows the park to introduce this amazing species to an international audience and highlights the important role national parks worldwide play in protecting biodiversity.”

The Silversword plants, which are on loan for the show, will travel back to HNP after being preserved by specialists in Korea. The specimens will then be used in park environmental education programs. Hawaiian Airlines allowed the plants to be transported at no charge.

More than a million people are expected to attend the Goyang International Horticulture Show during the three weeks it is open. The show runs from April 24 through May 11, 2014.

For more information about rare species and Haleakala National Park, visit nps.gov/hale. For more information on the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program, visit nature.nps.gov/climatechange.

Photo: Lois Whitney/County of Maui

Suzanne Kayian About Suzanne Kayian

Suzanne Kayian is a Maui-based writer, public relations specialist and social media zealot. With more than 20 years experience, Suzanne has contributed to a variety of publications ranging from local independent magazines to corporate international websites. She also designs and implements PR and promotional campaigns for an assortment of clients including musicians, filmmakers and art galleries. Twitter: https://twitter.com/MauiZan