It’s the tail end of silversword blooming season and I have been itching to go see them. Yesterday a friend and I together with some of the kids headed up Haleakala to see if we could find any. We got lucky!
What are silverswords?
Silverswords are rare endemic plants that grow only on high elevations (6900+ ft) on Haleakala and on Big Island’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. In the 1980s they were added to the endangered plant list and are protected by federal law.
They can live up to 90 years and are a low-lying round shape of silvery spikes, a foot in diameter or so. While they look hardy, they have an incredibly fragile root system. If you step too close to them, you damage the root system and they die. Please heed warning signs and stay on designated paths.
Where can you find them?
I have often seen silverswords at or near the two parking lots at the top of Haleakala. I was surprised yesterday that there were none at all at the lower parking lot. They have either died after blooming or had their root systems trampled (so sad). The upper (summit) parking lot had a number of silverswords, four in various stages of bloom. If you hike down the Sliding Sands trail, you eventually pass several areas with silverswords. Please take precautions for high-altitude hiking – this is a very difficult though very rewarding trail.
Silverswords bloom in July. We are at the tail-end of their bloom season. Plants will bloom once during their lifespan and then die. The bloom will grow up to 6 feet tall, with up to 600 flowering heads. It is an odd-looking plant, but incredible.
These silversword blooms are already past their prime. A few years ago I took this photo of the blooms – absolutely amazing.
A few years ago I drove up Haleakala for sunrise. It was incredible. Check out my blog on What to Expect at a Sunrise on Haleakala.