Haleakala and the ‘Ahinahina

Haleakala is the sacred mountain of Maui. Rising to 10,000 feet above the clouds, it is aptly named the House of the Sun.

The people of Ha6 Habitat zoneswaii held mountains in high respect, and they did not live on mountains. See this sketch. Summits belonged to the mountain spirits. There was an altitude lower down from the summit which was suitable for shrines, but still not for people to dwell. People lived down on the plains, close to the sea.

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The ‘ahinahina silversword is unique to the summit of Haleakala. Although this name is translated as very gray, do I not see Hina the goddess of the moon? Wikipedia gives us the following information.

The Haleakalā silversword, Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum, has numerous sword-like succulent leaves covered with silver hairs. Silversword plants in general grow on volcanic cinder, a dry, rocky substrate that is subject to freezing temperatures and high winds. The skin and hairs are strong enough to resist the wind and freezing temperature of this altitude and protect the plant from dehydration and the sun.

The plant’s base of leaves, arranged in a spherical formation at ground level o2014-07-17 09.54.07f the plant, dominates for the majority of the plant’s life—which may be greater than 50 years. The leaves are arranged so that they and the hairs of the leaves can raise the temperature of the shoot-tip leaves up to 20 °C (36 °F), thereby having adapted to the extreme high-altitude temperatures by focusing the sunlight to converge at this point and warm the plant.

Here are some photos of ‘ahinahina that I took at the National Park Visitor’s Center. The sun had just emerged after a rain shower, and the ‘ahinahina were sparkling with raindrops.

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We drove through layers of clouds and rain and finally reached the Haleakala Visitor’s Center at the summit. Here are some of the ever-changing views of the crater.

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Truly, Haleakala is sacred, and so is the ‘ahinahina. Let us give them our malama, our protection. It is our kuleana, our responsibility.