Fungus Causing Potential Ban of Ohia At 2016 Merrie Monarch Festival

Angelique Kokal, Reporter

Merrie Monarch Festival is just now around the corner and some individuals are attempting to push a ban of one of the competitions most treasured costume adornments, ohia. In Hawaiian culture, the lehua blossom from the ohia tree is both symbolic and iconic. Both the lehua blossom and the liko, meaning new leaves, are worn in hula competitions.

Though the ohia is special, some are pushing a ban, due to a fungal disease, spreading through ohia forests on the Big Island. Scientists, claim opting not to use ohia at the festival would be a large and significant step towards eliminating and stopping the spread of the fungal disease to the other islands. Scientists, also claim that with people gathering lei material on their own islands as well as others, could easily promote the spread of the disease.

The fungal disease has already destroyed more than 34,000 acres of ohia forests on the Big Island. The ohia tree has been considered as one of Hawaii’s most important trees, due to native, endangered birds living and feeding on them.

The ban of ohia at the Merrie Monarch festival is only a temporary solution to the spreading disease, but it is said that it could potentially have lasting effects.