The Hawaiian Silversword: Another Warning on Climate Change
by Zach Fitzner
The Hawaiian silversword (Argyroxyphium sandwicense), a beautiful, spiny plant from the volcanic Hawaiian highlands may not survive the ravages of climate change, according to a new study in Global Change Biology. An unmistakable plant, the silversword has long, sword-shaped leaves covered in silver hair and beautiful flowering stalks that may tower to a height of three meters.
The Hawaiian silversword flowers only once in its life of 20 to 90 years, not unlike the much-loved agave. Because of this, records show that the number of silversword flowering in any given year varies wildly from zero to 6,632 plants. It depends on pollination from other individual plants for reproduction, so the trigger for flowering events is a key piece of a puzzle not currently understood, like many aspects of ecology…
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(photos: T - Paul Krushelnycky; B - Forest and Kim Starr)