Posted by: soniahs | January 20, 2011

Silver in the mist

What lives in a Hawaiian alpine desert at 10,000 feet?

Here’s one species: the Haleakalā Silversword- `Ahinahina in Hawaiian.

Silversword in bloom, by Karl Magnacca (Wikipedia).

Descended from the lowly tarweed, these majestic plants have fuzzy, pointed leaves that gather tiny drops of dew in the rare high-elevation mists.

Dewdrops on silver.

Each rosette of leaves grows for many years, then flowers, sending a single spike of flowers high into the air. If pollinated, they release seeds, then die. These plants only have one chance at vegetative glory, so they make the most of it.

While rain is rare in Haleakalā, it’s more likely in winter (snow is even more uncommon). Silversword leaves resist freezing, so this cold moisture is welcome.

View into Haleakala under clouds.

High clouds turn the sun silver, and add iridescent light to the experience of Haleakalā. Do misty days mean happy Silverswords?

Sun through high clouds at Haleakalā.

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