Spot Silversword: Maui’s Rare PlantMaui

HAWAIIAN SILVERSWORD PLANTS are so rare that they only grow in a select few locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands—above the 6,000-foot level on HALEAKALA, and high on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawai‘i Island.

Even more rare is the appropriately named ‘ahinahina (Hawaiian for the color gray), the subspecies of silversword found only in the rocky cinders of the Maui volcano.

Botanists say the silversword is a relative of the common sunflower. The species is covered with purple-reddish blossoms from the center of its silvery-gray, sword-like leaves, which help protect the plant from the effects of the sun’s radiation and low moisture above the mountain’s timberline.

Each plant can live up to 50 years, ending its life cycle when it explodes into bloom, usually between June and October, sprouting a stalk anywhere from 3 to 8 feet tall.

Silversword plants can be found in front of HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK HEADQUARTERS VISITOR CENTER, in a fenced enclosure at KAPA‘AU OVERLOOK, along the road near the summit parking area and along SILVERSWORD LOOP on the floor of the crater.