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ʻŌhiʻa Love Fest returns in person to celebrate, recognize ʻōhiʻa lehua

Molly Solomon
Molly Solomon

The Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death disease has devastated our islands — killing more than 1 million ʻōhiʻa trees statewide.

That’s why state officials say it’s important to recognize the ʻōhiʻa lehua’s environmental and cultural significance in Hawaiʻi.

The annual ʻŌhiʻa Love Fest returns in person this month after two years of virtual events. It features potting workshops, a seed collecting hike, tree planting and more.

“Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death is so important. And just going back to what ʻōhiʻa trees do for us in general, they not only provide shelter and food and habitat for all of our endangered species… these trees and ʻōhiʻa trees, they’re giant sponges,” said Ambyr Miyake, the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death statewide outreach coordinator at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She also organizes the festival. “And they take up all the water and pump it into our aquifers. They are the reasons why we can live here on these islands and have water to drink and water to bathe and things like that.”

The ʻōhiʻa was also designated as Hawaiʻi’s state endemic tree earlier this year.

Miyake said the festival is a time to recognize the scientists, cultural practitioners, educators, conservation agencies and community members coming together for a common goal.

“I know this is really doom and gloom for a lot of people, and it’s talking about death and something that’s so sad,” Miyake said. “Although this is happening and there’s no cure for (Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death), we still see where we can make a difference.”

Festivities began earlier this month and will run through Saturday, Nov. 19. The free events are planned for Maui, Oʻahu, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island. For more information, click here.

Jayna Omaye was a culture and arts reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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