Spectacular Hawaiian Plant Threatened by Global Warming

This plant only grows in the Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii, biologists explain

By Laura Sinpetru on January 18th, 2013 21:11 GMT

According to a study recently published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology, a spectacular plant that only grows in the Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii is now facing extinction as a result of climate change and global warming.

Known to science as the Haleakalā silversword, this particular plant was listed as a protected species back in 1992.

In case anyone is wondering what makes it so very special that millions of people travel to this part of the world on a yearly basis just to be able to have a look or two at it, the answer is fairly simple.

The plant can grow to be about 1.8 meters (roughly 6 feet) tall, and only blooms when it is nearing the end of its natural life cycle. Interestingly enough, some of these plants “pass away” at the age of 20, whereas others can “live” to be 90.

Scientific American explains that, when the time comes for the Haleakalā silversword to bloom, it can end up producing as many as 600 red flower heads.

Up until recently, the biggest threats this plant had to face was losing its natural habitat to the expansion of human society.

However, biologists now claim that, as a result of the increase in global average temperatures, this plant's environment has simply become too warm and too dry for its seeds to be able to properly develop into new specimens.

Besides the fact that the Haleakalā silversword’s seeds are kept from growing, it seems that the changes in weather conditions are also causing some of the already mature plants to die.

“First, mortality has been greatest in smaller plants, which are much less visible from a distance than larger plants.”

“Second, from a distance the dead silverswords, which are a duller grey, do not look dramatically different from live silverswords, and can persist for many years, so high mortality may not be that apparent for a while,” explained Paul Krushelnycky, a biologist with the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
Spectacular Hawaiian plant now threatened by climate change
   Spectacular Hawaiian plant now threatened by climate change
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