Rays of sunlight through trees
NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Harbors a Plant Paradise

Along the wind-scoured coastal plain, the lone tendrils of an ʻae fern peer from cracks in endless flows of hardened lava. At the park’s mid-elevation, blazing blooms of ʻōhiʻa trees and towering fronds of giant hāpu’u, a tree fern, rise amid a tangle of misty rain forest. Miles above, the distinctive rosette of the endangered Mauna Loa silversword clings to an alpine ledge. Evolving over 70 million years ago in nearly complete isolation, more than 90% of the state’s native flora are found only in the Hawaiian Islands. Today, the national park harbors the descendents of those first colonizers—numerous evolutionary marvels such as mintless mints and nettleless nettles—plants adapted to life without plant-eating mammals. These are just a few of the amazing diversity of plants living within the park.

Sadly, Hawai’i faces an ecological crisis. Plants that have survived for millennia now face tremendous threats from alien invasive plants and wildlife species, creating great challenges for resource managers. Within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park are 23 species of endangered vascular plants including 15 species of endangered trees. The race to recover the park’s native landscapes and endangered plants is a major commitment of the Resources Management Division. The removal of alien ungulates such as mouflon sheep, removal of the most displacing invasive plants, and the planting of endangered and native plants are all priorities.

Photo of a cluster of ferns from above

Icons of the Hawaiian rainforest

Close-up view of a red ʻohiʻa lehua blossom

Keystones of native ecosystems and culture

A rosette of a Mauna Loa silversword plant
Shrubs & Bushes

Unique shrubs, bushes, and other ground plants

Close up of ʻōhiʻa lehua flowers
Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death

Please help prevent the spread of this terrible disease

Field of Himalayan ginger plants
Invasive Plants

An array of invasive plants threaten the survival of native species

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5 minutes, 6 seconds

Commensalism, or literally, "eating at the same table," is a relationship whereby one species benefits while the other neither benefits nor is harmed.


Video: Culturally Significant Plants

  • green leaves of a tī plant

    Ti, also known as kī or lāʻī, is used by Native Hawaiians for everything from clothing, to medicine, and to ward off evil spirits.

  • Kalo plants with large green leaves in a low, wet area

    Also known as taro, the kalo plant is central to Native Hawaiian culture.

  • Dew-covered green leaf of a kukui tree

    The official state tree of Hawaii has many cultural uses, including famously as fuel for torches.

  • Purple sweet potato sliced open

    Hawaiian sweet potatoes come in an amazing number of varieties have helped sustain the Hawaiian people

  • Green sickle-shaped leaves of a koa tree

    This video from Haleakalā National Park follows one Hawaiian man's love for one of the rarest and most threatened trees in the world.


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Last updated: May 14, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 52
Hawaii National Park, HI 96718


808 985-6011

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