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The volcanic lands are surprisingly full of life and unique treasures

On the various islands that make up Hawaii, there are 300 endemic species of plants that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

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The very rare Haleakala silversword on the island of Maui (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum) is one of them. It can live for more than ninety years and only flowers once just before it dies. The plant grows in the soil on the slopes of this Hawaiian volcano at high altitudes and is perfectly adapted to the hostile environment.  It is beautiful, if curiously strange, with very dense rosettes and pointed leaves radiating from the base. Climate change is imposing a new threat on these charismatic plants: hotter and drier conditions are threatening even the hardy silver swords.

Like the silver sword of Mauna Kea volcano, it is part of a group of fifty species in three genera, all endemic to the volcano, whose English name is silverswords and refers to the “crown jewels” of Mount Mauna Kea. It is the highest peak in the world, with its submerged part at six thousand metres and its emerged part at four hundred and seven thousand metres. It reaches more than ten thousand metres from its base.

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