A newly identified disease has killed large numbers of mature ʻōhiʻa trees (Metrosideros polymorpha) in forests and residential areas of the Puna and Hilo Districts of Hawaiʻi Island. Landowners have observed that when previously healthy-looking trees begin to exhibit symptoms they typically die within a matter of weeks. This disease has the potential to kill ʻōhiʻa trees statewide.

So far Ohiʻa samples from Holualoa and Kealakekua on the Kona side of Big Island is the only island confirmed to be infected with the disease. 

Currently, there is no effective treatment to protect ʻōhiʻa trees from becoming infected with Ceratocystis or cure trees that exhibit symptoms of the disease. To reduce the spread of Ceratocystis, landowners should not transport wood of affected ʻōhiʻa trees to other areas. The pathogen may remain viable for over a year in dead wood. 

Tools used for cutting infected ʻōhiʻa trees should be cleaned either with Lysol ™ or a 70% rubbing alcohol solution. A freshly prepared 10% solution of chlorine bleach and water can be used as long as tools are oiled afterwards, as chlorine bleach will corrode metal tools. Chain saw blades should be brushed clean, sprayed with cleaning solution, and run briefly to lubricate the chain. Vehicles used off-road in infected forest areas should be thoroughly cleaned underneath so as not to carry contaminated soil to healthy forests. Shoes, tools, and clothing used in infected forests should also be cleaned, especially before being used in healthy forests.

Landowners, hikers, artists, photographers or anyone who suspect Rapid Ohia Death infection of ʻōhiʻa trees outside these areas are encouraged to contact Drs. Friday, or Hughes, at the below addresses with reports and locations of infected areas.

J. B. Friday
University of Hawaiʻi College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension Service
(808) 969-8254

Flint Hughes
USDA Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry
(808) 854-2617

Source: www.rapidohiadeath.org

Mary Ann Pahukoa