In DepthConservation

Hope blooms for Hawaii's iconic native tree

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Science  10 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6402, pp. 540
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6402.540

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Hawaii's red-blossomed 'ōhi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) is tough enough to colonize recent lava flows, but until this summer the iconic native tree seemed doomed. Four years ago an invasive fungus began to kill 'ōhi'a on the island of Hawaii, with 800 square kilometers now affected and signs that it has spread to another island. But the picture brightened at a Honolulu meeting in July. Aerial surveys and studies on land and in the lab now suggest some 'ōhi'a will survive. The killer fungus turns out to be two related species, one of them less deadly to 'ōhi'a, and some trees seem to have a native resistance to both strains. Also, management practices such as fencing out animals seem to slow the spread of the fungus. Thus there is a glimmer of hope that the 'ōhi'a will survive, the experts say.