Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in Hawaiʻi

By: , and 
Edited by: Fred O. Asiegbu and Andriy Kovalchuk



Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia are two newly recognized fungi that have arrived in Hawai‘i and are causing a serious vascular wilt and canker disease, respectively, of ‘ōhi‘a trees (Metrosideros polymorpha), the most common and important tree species in Hawai‘i. Management of these diseases has presented challenges due to unique etiological aspects and the exceptionally pathogenic nature of one of these fungi (C. lukuohia) once it gains access to the tree’s vascular tissue. Careful study of the spread of the pathogens has resulted in an understanding of the role of ambrosia beetles and the frass they produce that carries the pathogen, as well as the wounding of trees by many different agents by which the pathogen can access and infect the vascular tissue.

A variety control measures are being used. These include a state-of-the-art monitoring program to detect diseased and recently killed trees and molecular biology approaches that can confirm if a given tree was infected by Ceratocystis. Based on monitoring more than one million trees have been estimated as killed by the diseases to date. A major part of the program includes the deployment of a field crew that seeks out and fells large infected ‘ōhi‘a trees as these trees are the main source of most of the infective Ceratocystis-laden frass. Long-term control measures also include fencing of some forests to reduce the amount of wounding to ‘ōhi‘a trees by feral cattle and pigs that allows entry of the fungi and quarantine restrictions to ensure there will be no inter-island movement of the pathogens in ‘ōhi‘a products. Finally, methods are also being developed to restore ‘ōhi‘a forests affected by these diseases by determining effective regeneration practices and developing genetically resistant ‘ōhi‘a stock.

Hawai‘i has an active extension program dedicated to providing information on how residents and visitors can contribute to protecting ‘ōhi‘a trees from these diseases. More than 500,000 people have participated in this program. Hawai‘i residents have a very deep appreciation for this tree species and do what they can to help prevent these diseases from destroying more of their most treasured tree species.

Study Area

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in Hawaiʻi
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-323-85042-1.00013-6
Volume 2
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Description 23 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Forest microbiology: Forest tree health
First page 267
Last page 289
Country United States
State Hawai'i
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