Ohia Wilt Spreading More Quickly Than Initially Thought

Jan 29, 2016

Credit University of Hawaii
Credit Department of Land and Natural Resources

Scientists say a disease killing hundreds of thousands of ‘ōhi‘a trees on Hawaii's Big Island is spreading. Recent aerial surveys show the acreage of infected trees has more than doubled in the past two years. State, county and federal agencies collaborated to conduct the surveys by helicopter last month. The fungal disease, called Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, was found in 34,000 acres of ‘ōhi‘a forest. Rob Hauff is the Forest Health Coordinator with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The disease has now spread to ‘ōhi‘a trees in Kona, Ka‘ū and the Kohala forests. That’s concerning for Flint Hughes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

To prevent further spread of the disease, the state is urging the public to clean tools and gear used on ‘ōhi‘a and to avoid moving any of the tree’s wood, especially to outer islands. A quarantine rule issued by the Department of Agriculture remains in effect, banning interisland transport without a permit.