Creation – Fire
Ohi‘a lehua, Limahuli National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i
casein on gessoed panel, 36 x 12 inches
The ohia lehua trees are symbolic remnants of the native forests of Hawaii. It has adapted to a wide range of habitat. It is one of the first colonizers on a new lava flow, a natural bonsai in the bogs of Kauai, and as the tallest tree in the rainforest. Native birds feed on the nectar of the colorful red, yellow and orange flowers. Transforming the landscape where it grows. The ohi‘a lehua tree has been sacred to the Hawaiian people since ancient times. It is usually associated with the volcano deity Pele and is the subject of songs, dances, chants and legends. Native Hawaiians used to make a medicinal potion out of the Ohia Tree’s bark and leaves. It was meant to spark a strong, passionate, inward fire to grow, bloom, and rejoice in life. A transformation.
Today the ohia lehua is threatened by Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD), a newly identified fungal disease currently attacking and killing ‘ōhi‘a. ‘Ōhi‘a is the keystone species in Hawaiian forests, and ROD has the potential to cause major ecosystem distur- bances that will negatively impact watersheds, cultural traditions, natural resources, and quality of life. Botanists, researchers and volunteers are working hard to save the sacred Ohia lehua tree with conservation methods, containment, education of safe practices and collecting seeds. Through valiant and heroic efforts such as the NTBG Seedbank, there is hope to save the Ohi‘a lehua.