Hawaii Biological Survey's


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83. Silversword

Scientific name: Argyroxiphium sandwicense ssp. macrocephalum

Hawaiian Name: ‘Ahinahina

Classification: Phylum: Dicotyleodonae. Family: Asteraceae.

Origin: Endemic.

Status: Endangered.

Distribution: Maui.

Map: --

One of the most recognized of Hawaiian native plants, this silversword is found only on Haleakala on Maui (the other subspecies is found on Mauna Loa on the Big Island). It takes from 15-50 years to mature before it sends up its spectacular floral diplay. If successfully pollinated by native insects, each plant can produce thousands of tiny seeds. After flowering and producing seeds the plant dies.


Its silvery color reflects sunlight and reduces moisture loss during the day while it stores scarce water in its succulent leaves. It is currently threatened with possible extinction because of the loss of its pollinators by predaceous nonnative ants and wasps.

   Photo by Clyde Imada