On a lush 20-acre parcel, healthy ohia offer hope for a tree facing a dire threat

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last year, the Lyons family bought a 20-acre property in lush Mountain View on the Big Island.

It's filled with healthy ohia lehua, even as rapid ohia death spreads on the island.

"Learning about ohia rapid death was disturbing," said landowner Lacy Lyons. "Just knowing it's taking out the forest like a forest fire."

So Lyons decided to do something.

She started seed banking with help from the University of Hawaii's Lyon Arboretum in Manoa.

"It kind of was a calling for me personally," Lyons said. "For my ancestors and my future generations."

Rapid ohia death has spread across 75,000 acres on the Big Island; the fungus is easily spread by people and insects.

"It's a big concern and we need to limit the spread," said Marian Chau, seed Conservation Lab manager at Lyon Arboretum. "But there's hope too, because not all the trees are affected, and we can bank these seeds for the future."

Collecting seeds can be easy. All you have to do is get the pods, shake the plant and the seeds should come out.

But there are protocols to follow for cleaning and not transferring rapid ohia death.

At Lyon Arboretum, millions of ohia seeds are kept in a freezer. There are two seed banks on Hawaii island. Chau says seeds can remain viable for decades.

A plan for how to actually use the saved seeds still needs to be worked out, but the seeds are ready to help preserve Hawaii's precious native forests.

The Lyons Estate is holding an #OhiaLove crowdfunding launch event at Herringbone Waikiki on March 3 at 10:30 a.m., featuring free haku lei and a seedling demonstration.

Funds will be used for to comply with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Forestry Program, public seedling workshops, and seed banking.

For more information, click here.

This story may be updated.

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