As invasive weeds are systematically pulled and hauled off the slopes of Maunakea, almost 100 keiki silversword are outplanted as part of restoration efforts on the mauna.
By Susan Enright.
As invasive weeds are being systematically pulled and hauled off the slopes of Maunakea by tenacious volunteers in a series of “weed pull” days, native plants are being sown from seed and carefully outplanted by as part of restoration efforts on the mauna. The work, in partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, is headed by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Center for Maunakea Stewardship in its mission to preserve and enhance the resources of Maunakea.
Out with the weeds…
The center reports that the second Mālama Maunakea Volunteer Weed Pull in 2023 was a huge success earlier this month on May 12, 2023. Community volunteers weeded an overgrown planted area on Maunakea at the 9,000-foot elevation with the goal of creating bare ground for native plants to be established. Sixteen volunteers worked hard to target mostly invasive grasses like ripgut and needlegrass, removing about 2,100 pounds of the invasive weeds.
The Mālama Maunakea Volunteer Weed Pulls are part of the center’s ongoing efforts to protect the resources on the mountain by helping to control fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis) and other invasive plant species. The numbers are impressive: The center has organized a total of 63 weed pulls with 1,600 community volunteers that spent over 10,000 hours (or 416.6 days) filling 2,600-plus reusable garbage bags with weeds.
Eradicating invasive species and weeds helps to reduce habitat for invasive ants, prevents unwanted invasive species from being transported to the upper elevation areas of Maunakea, and prepares the surrounding area for native plant replanting projects such as the silversword project.
…in with the silverswords
The Center for Maunakea Stewardship also reports that staff recently outplanted almost 100 silversword plants into an enclosure on the mauna. The silversword are from seed sown last year in a greenhouse at the Halepōhaku mid-level facility. Learn more about the project:
- Stewardship program re-establishing endangered silversword on Maunakea (UH Hilo Stories, August 24, 2022)
- Update on silversword recovery efforts (UH Hilo Stories, Feb. 21, 2023)
The effort to re-establish the highly endangered silversword on Maunakea began last year through a partnership between UH Hilo’s Center for Maunakea Stewardship and the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
“Partnerships like the one we have with Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife grow into successful examples of working together,” says Justin Yeh, resource manager at the center.
The sprouts spent some time in the protective shelter of the greenhouse, acclimating and growing stronger, before being transferred to the new enclosure at another location on Maunakea.
The plants will help increase the genetic diversity of the silversword on Maunkea by introducing four new parental lineages. This is in hopes to help create a more robust silversword that can adapt to the different types of microclimates found on Maunakea.
To date, the Center for Maunakea Stewardship has planted more than 628 native plants near Halepōhaku. There are ongoing plans to continue planting as the keiki native plants growing in the greenhouse continue to mature.
“I’m so proud of our team for the growing success we are having with silversword and other native species,” says Yeh. “We want to be a hub for habitat restoration, culture, education and astronomy on Maunakea.”
Center for Maunakea Stewardship
Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.