Every year hula dancers in Hawaii head into the ohia forests of Hawai’i the Big Island to gather the trees’ flowers to adorn the dancers’ hair, lei and hands for the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world’s largest hula competition.
But this year the dancers are avoiding the flower to stop the spread of a fungus that’s killing the trees. The hearty ohia tree, which is endemic to Hawaii, grows easily on lava flows and is found all over the archipelago. For now, the fungus is found only on the Big Island, but scientists are worried that the thousands of people that come to the ohia forests to pluck the flowers could unintentionally spread the fungus, leading to what’s known as rapid ohia death that would disturb the islands’ delicate ecosystem. Read more: nytimes.com