MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a program designed to bring back the native species, but potentially help save it from a ravaging plague that threatens the tree statewide.
The Manoa Urban Ohia Project is a partnership with community group, Malama Manoa. The hope is to enhance the health, beauty, and ecological diversity of the valley.
JC Watson is the president of the 'Ohi'a Legacy Initiative and is coordinating the urban forestry project to get property owners to plant new ohia by giving out free trees.
Called a keystone species, ohia are often among the first plants to appear on new lava flows or land slide areas.
And then all the other species follow behind it -- the ferns, the more rare species, the really really awesome stuff -- and then the birds as well." said Watson.
But now, in every district on Hawaii Island, a fungal disease called Rapid Ohia Death has decimated hundreds of thousands of them.
Ambyr Mokiao-Lee is coordinating the battle against Rapid Ohia Death for the UH-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture. She hopes the new planting project will help the fight against the fungus from spreading from Hawaii Island.
"It is very important because it's a start. We have to start somewhere and their initiative is getting the ball rolling for this island," Mokiao-Lee said
Added Watson, "I can't really do anything about the fungus, what it's doing over there. But what we can do is grow as many Ohi?a as we can over here, so if it does jump islands at least it encounters a robust population."
By year's end, the Manoa Urban Ohia Project wants to see 350 -- or 10 percent of the households in the valley -- with the native tree in their yards.
Watson and his team will be giving away free ohia trees on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Manoa District Park.
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