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Kauai is steeped in legends and folklore handed down from generation to generation through spoken stories. One such legend is the romantic story of Ohia and Lehua. Today, the Ohia Lehua (Metrosideros Polymorpha) is facing a real-life tragedy as described below. At Shaka Zipline our mission is to connect a safe, exciting adventure that informs and educates our guests on Kauai’s history and culture through minimal environmental impact and contribute to the preservation of Kauai’s fragile resources.


a pink flower on a plant

There was once a man named Ohia. He was strong and tall and it was said that the Pele, the goddess of volanoes, had a crush on him. Sadly for Pele, his heart belonged to another woman named Lehua. And Lehua returned his love. One day, Pele was walking in a forest and came across Ohia. She tried to catch his attention, but he was oblivious to her efforts. Ohia could only see Lehua as he was walking and happiness struck his face. Pele grew so angry that she could not have Ohia. She struck him and turned him into a twisted ugly tree in revenge of rejecting her. Lehua looked at her love in tears, begging Pele to return him to her or to turn her into a tree as she couldn’t bear to be separated from him. Pele refused to grant Lehua her wishes, but the other Hawaiian gods were angry with what they saw. They decided to reach down to Lehua and turn her into a beautiful red flower. They placed it upon the twisted ohia tree so she could remain one with Ohia.

Legend has it that whenever a flower is plucked from the tree, heavy rain falls upon the land like tears. Lehua still cannot bear to be separated from her beloved Ohia.

Ohia trees are endemic to Hawaii. They are found in almost all Hawaiian ecosystems, both wet and dry, ranging from lowland dry shrublands and rainforests to dry lava flows and high elevation bogs. Ohia was used by early Hawaiians to create weapons, everyday tools, and medicinal teas. Leaves of this tree sustained populations of native birds, such as the apapane and the mamo, whose vibrant feathers were used in traditional Hawaiian clothing and ceremonial adornments. Today, Ohia blossoms continue to be used in cultural ceremonies and practices, such as lei and hula, though many hula practitioners have begun forgoing the use of Ohia to prevent the spread of Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) and protect this culturally significant tree species. Adapted to the variable and sometimes harsh weather conditions of the Hawaiian islands, Ohia play a key role in watershed protection and water conservation by retaining water following storm events and preventing subsequent erosion and flooding.


a close up of a plant


a close up of a flower

Unfortunately, in 2014 Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) was discovered. It is a fungus (Ceratocystis fimbriate) that attacks and quickly kills Ohia trees. On Hawaii thousands of Ohia trees have already been killed by ROD. As researchers believe this fungus can spread over long distances, ROD has the potential to kill Ohia trees across the entire state. 2018 saw the first case of ROD on the Garden Isle of Kauai.

How can we stop the spread?

By properly cleaning shoes before entering the course, and upon exiting, we can make sure we aren’t spreading infected seeds, leaves or debris. Shoe cleaning stations include dry scrubbing as well as a rubbing alcohol spray on the soles of your shoes. Sadly, ROD has spread to locations on Kaua’i. Please be sure to use shoe cleaning stations on our course, and any other locations on the Garden Isle where provided. YOU can stop the spread.