ASU researchers use airborne remote sensing in the hunt for pathogen killing Hawaiian tree

by Makenna Flynn, Arizona State University
March 17, 2022

According to legend, Pele, Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire, once fell in love with the handsome warrior ʻŌhiʻa and asked him to marry her. But ʻŌhiʻa had already pledged his love to another, Lehua. Pele, heartbroken and furious in rage, turned ʻŌhiʻa into a twisted tree.

The gods took pity on Lehua, turning her into a flower on the twisted tree that was once her love. The two, forever joined together, would become the ʻŌhiʻa lehua tree.

The ʻŌhiʻa lehua (metrosideros polymorpha) is a native tree to six Hawaiian islands, tied to both the environment and culture. But today, a new culprit has begun wreaking havoc on the trees and surrounding ecosystem. Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD) is a fungal pathogen that is both unpredictable and swift in causing tree mortality. Each year, an average of 10% of trees die due to ROD.

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