"Deep in the forests of Hawaii, a native tree called 'ōhi'a reigns king. The tall canopy tree dominates the island's forests, especially on the Big Island. 'Ōhi'a makes up approximately 80 percent of Hawaii's native forests and more than half of 'ōhi'a grows on Hawaii Island.Often the first plant to grow from a fresh lava flow, 'Ōhi'a is known for its resilience. That's what makes a recent discovery all the more tragic: 'ōhi'a is dying.
The disease, called Rapid 'Ōhi'a Death, was first spotted on the eastern side of the Big Island. In an area called "Ground Zero," scientists observe land that was once lush, green rain forest. It's now barren, littered with dead trees.
"Out of hundreds of trees that we're looking at, maybe two or three of the 'ōhi'a trees still have leaves on them," says J.B. Friday, an extension forester with the University of Hawaii and one of scientists in the group. "It's heartbreaking for people who knew what this forest was 10 years ago.""