CTAHR Interim Dean Sylvia Yuen and USDA’s Diane Ley plant a non-endemic wiliwili tree (photo courtesy of CTAHR)

On June 21, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources dedicated a tree related to the native wiliwili to commemorate the 150th anniversary of two important acts in America’s agricultural history. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture and also signed into law the Morrill Act, which created the land-grant university system.

CTAHR and USDA hosted the dedication to celebrate their long partnership and honor these anniversaries. CTAHR Interim Dean Sylvia Yuen and USDA Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Diane Ley spoke at the festivities. The tree was nurtured from seed and planted by CTAHR emeritus horticulturist Richard Criley.

One of their partnership programs was the identification, field testing and permitting of a biocontrol wasp predator of the Erythrina gall wasp, which devastated the state’s native wiliwili trees. Working with the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, CTAHR researchers searched for and identified the African wasp Eurytoma erythrinae, which preys on the Erythrina gall wasp but does not harm any other species. The USDA was instrumental in permitting the wasp predator to be used in the islands. The results so far have proved successful, leading to the hope that wiliwili trees will soon flourish.

Adapted from a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa news release.