AP NEWS

Hawaii confirms rapid ohia fungal disease on 5th Oahu tree

March 10, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii officials have confirmed another discovery of a fungal disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of native ohia trees in the state.

An ohia tree with the infection was found on Oahu near the popular Poamoho trail above Wahiawa, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources confirmed the tree was infected with Ceratocystis huliohia, the less aggressive of the two fungal species responsible for the blight.

The fungal disease infected four other trees on Oahu and has been found on each of the four main islands.

An aerial survey in November found Oahu’s fourth case of the fungal disease at the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve above Tripler Army Medical Center.

The disease was previously detected on Kamehameha Schools land above Pearl City and in two different residential areas of Windward Oahu.

“That’s kind of a large area, so that leads us to believe that it’s fairly widely distributed on the island,” state protection forester Rob Hauff said. “It’s not entirely surprising we’re seeing these isolated trees.”

The state will be cautious in removing the latest infected tree because Poamoho is a critical watershed that is home to numerous endangered plants and animals, Hauff said.

Crews will sample the surrounding trees in Poamoho to ensure the disease has not spread.

Some scientists think Ceratocystis huliohia may have been present in Hawaii longer than the more aggressive strain, Ceratocystis lukuohia, but that it was discovered while testing for the latter, Hauff said.

Both pathogens shut down the ohia tree’s vascular system, causing leaves to suddenly turn brown and affecting limbs and entire crowns.

The more aggressive strain can kill trees within weeks, while the less aggressive species takes months to years.

The more aggressive strain has so far only been detected on Hawaii island and Kauai.