‘Ohi‘a lehua trees with Kalalau Valley on the background.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has recently disclosed the discovery of the first ʻōhiʻa tree infected with the fungal disease Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. The disease has been previously detected on Big Island and Kaua‘i.

Ceratocystis huliohia, the less aggressive strain of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, was recently detected in a single tree on private property in East Maui. The lone ʻōhiʻa tree, 15-20 feet tall and eight-to-ten inches in diameter, is a few feet from a taro lo‘i, according to a DLNR news release.

“This one tree is located away from other ʻōhiʻa trees, so this appears to be an isolated case. It will be treated immediately by torching or burning it,” said Lance DeSilva, Maui Forest Management Supervisor with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

This is the first positive detection of the disease on Maui. Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has impacted vast acreages and thousands of trees on Big Island. Both strains; the most aggressive, Ceratocystis lukuohia and the less aggressive, Ceratocystis huliohia have been detected there and on Kaua‘i. On Maui, only Ceratocystis huliohia has been detected.

Quarterly aerial surveys are conducted on Maui to spot trees that may be suspected of having the disease. Typically, samples are then taken from the ground and sent to a lab in Hilo for further testing to determine positive presence. The next Maui quarterly survey is scheduled to begin on July 15.

DOFAW personnel on Maui are planning to reach out to residents of the Kīpahulu and Hana areas to increase awareness in those communities for people to be on the lookout for other potential “backyard” ʻōhiʻa trees that should be monitored. Anyone who has a suspect tree is encouraged to call the DOFAW Maui office at 808-984-8100.