High atop Mount Haleakala a plant grows that is unique to this moonscape environment. The Silversword only grows on Haleakala in volcanic cinder, subject to freezing cold and high winds.The skin and hairs are strong enough to resist the wind and protect the plant.The succulent leaves of the Silversword are covered with silver hairs reflecting the bright sunlight on the rocky slopes . In the leaves a gel like substance attracts and stores water for dryer seasons.
Blooming usually occurs from July through October.. The flower stalk can reach up to 6.ft. in height covered in sticky hairs to prevent crawling insects from creating damage.. The life span of a Silversword ranges from five to fifteen years. After flowering the plant will die.
It's summer, and I am due for a trip up to Haleakala to look for blooming plants to photograph. This photo I took a few years ago, and it's still one of my favorite images.
In the 1920', visitors to the summit uprooted silversword plants to roll down the jagged lava slopes, also picking them as souvenirs These practices brought the Silversword close to extinction . The shallow root structure is very delicate and can be crushed by walking around the plant. I was once lucky enough to smell the exotic fragrance by leaning in towards the blooming stock without stepping off the trail..
Feeding by goats also severely damaged plants. Goats and pigs are fenced out of the crater area and since 1992, the Silversword is legally protected from damage by humans.
The protection of our eco system is important in so many ways. We have lost so much that was unique to the Hawaiian islands.
Enjoy and visit the House of the Sun, and please be very sensitive when visiting the treasure that is Haleakala.