This is a true story.
There is a plant who can survive
in only ash and ice, and the harshest light.
They are warriors planted in the sky
from the rebel grounds of ocean floors.
These plants are known as Silverswords.
These plants grow only here.
They wear their suits reflecting sun
and fight the gales in uniform.
However, these knights have a secret they hold
much deeper than meets the eye …
Much like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz,
their quest in life : to find their true hearts.
The heart they’ll hold but keep from light
until they are ready to blossom and die…
Each plant then waits in contemplation … years
(some up to fifty!)
Waiting in their questioning for a moment of truth
When they decide to give this heart—
breaking bread with dawn’s communion,
they show rare beauty, overflowing,
and color the skies with freedom blooming.
Poetry is very much alive in this incredible world!
The majestic Silversword plant grows only at the summit of Mt. Haleakalā on Maui and Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii. They arrived an estimated one million years ago on winds from ancestor tarweeds in North America. They are a highly endangered species and are very protected in their volcanic environments by conservation efforts.
Their leaves are covered with tiny silver hairs that reflect the intense sunlight and protect them from radiation at 10,000 feet above sea level. Their striking appearance is compared to a bouquet of shining swords. They can collect water from the snow storms that happen at the summit and store enough water in their leaves to survive the summer.
What makes these plants most awe-inspiring is that they live between 15-50 years, only bloom once in their lifetime, and then immediately die afterwords. It’s like they give thanks to the world and then prostrate themselves.
What a wonder of nature! I am so curious about how each plant knows when it’s their time to bloom… I wonder why some wait decades longer than others before unveiling what they have created inside. Very mysterious…
Their flowering is a spiraling rosette of 30 to 600 disk florets. The flowers are deep plum-colored and look very similar to their relative, the sunflower. These peculiar blooms can tower at over 8 feet tall!
The plant starts drying up after it’s final bloom dies and then it turns into a skeleton. The good news is that a new baby Silversword can then rise up out of the husk of the dead plants. ☺️
I felt very honored to witness the rare flowering of some miraculous Silverswords on Mt. Haleakalā this past weekend.
All of my facts come from my very knowledgeable neighbor, Scott — a Naturalist who has worked protecting Silverswords on Haleakalā for over 20 years!
Writing and photography by: Katy Claire Funke