the lighter-colored tree in center front
In a fenced exclosure near the visitor center. The multi-headed growth is a result of inbreeding during the first propagation attempts. Normal plants grow as a single rosette, and the entire plant dies after sending up an inflorescence; here a couple of heads have bloomed, but the rest of the plant remains alive.
These used to be the dominant flora in the harsh alpine environment on the upper elevations of Mauna Kea. The white hairs act as tiny fiber optic conduits that can heat the leaf tips by 20 deg C, allowing the plant to grow in the cold. But the plant had no defenses against introduced grazing animals. Both subspecies, the Mauna Kea and the one from Haleakala on Maui, are endangered, and this one was driven to the brink of extinction. In 1984 only 131 plants were known, only 15 of which were not propagated by man. A single wild population was found, clinging to a precarious cliff where even the goats and mouflon sheep couldn't reach. The plants grow for 5-40 years before sending up a flowering stalk and then dying. This makes propagation difficult, and inbreeding during early propagation attempts, which started with only 1 or 2 flowering parents, led to poor survival rates and the deformity seen here, in which the plant branches into many rosettes rather than the normal one. A later generation of propagation attempts has involved heroic efforts to rescue the species' remaining genetic diversity. When a precious plant in the wild blooms, biologists, rappelling down cliff faces, hand-pollinate the tens of thousands of individual flowers (the bees that used to cross-pollinate the silverswords have declined along with the plant itself; and, in any case, the chances of two plants flowering close enough to one another for natural cross-pollination to occur are vanishingly small) and then collect & outplant the resulting seeds. There are now several thousand progeny. However, they still derive from only 6 wild founders. Hopefully that will continue to increase as more of the now ~40 wild plants bloom.
One of the many invasive plants in refuge. There appears to be minimal control of exotic grasses (and other cover plants?). Land managers have their hands full with other species!
This blurry observation represents the perils of too many birding tours in the world, and not enough odonate ones. This meadow was our turn-around point, and as the rest of the group called for me to join them as they returned back up the hill, I was waiting to get a better glimpse that never came of a large darner patrolling back and forth. What was it -- something native and interesting? Or an introduced common darner? Dunno. I think if I could have stayed a while longer, all mystery would have been revealed to me.
Epiphyte from the pepper family. Our guide told a great Hawaiian story that was associated with this species and the red undersides of its leaves. Trying to find it online still!
About to disappear into the scotch broom-esque bush.
This common native tree and the kona were the two species that our group was taught so we could help each other with directions for bird-watching.
Small seeds, in hand.
Found under a rotting log. How much do you want to bet that this ends up to be an introduced type of pillbug?
Akepa are cavity nesters, and the group speculated that this individual was checking out a potential site.
A mintless mint - "lost" its mint chemical defenses in the absence of herbivores in which the defense was used. Note iiwi bill-shaped flowers.
Small moth in grass.
Nene nest near this old barn every year apparently. This is where our shuttlebus parked and our walking bird tour of the refuge began. In the fourth photo, you can see our only observation of a nene in flight.
Some sort of invasive roadside aster.