Argyroxiphium sandwicense ssp. macrocephalum
threatened since 1992Haleakalā National Park
The ‘ahinahina, or silversword, is a low-growing shrub with narrow, sword-shaped leaves covered in silvery hairs. These plants live 3 to 90 years, flowering only once, sending up a stalk with hundreds of pink and red petals. The plant dies soon afterward, scattering its seeds to the wind.
‘Ahinahina is found within the hot, dry cinder cones of volcanoes. Typically located at elevations of 7,200 to 8,000 feet, silverswords are subject to frosts, arid temperatures and limited rainfalls.
The historical and current range of ‘ahinahina is contained within Haleakalā National Park on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Within the park, they are mainly found in the Haleakalā Crater.
Historically, ‘ahinahina populations were threatened by collection and vandalism, as well as trampling by goats and cattle and infestations by Argentine ants. While these threats have decreased with better management, the small population size and restricted range of the plants make them potentially more susceptible to future threats.
Stopping the spread of Argentine ants, which prey on the native bees that pollinate the plant, is a key component of the recovery plan for the ‘ahinahina. Fencing has also helped protect the plants and their habitat from feral animals. Park staff have been collecting seeds, growing new plants in the nursery, and reintroducing the plants back into former habitat.