Hawaiian Volcano 

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Vegetation growing in teprha deposits erupted from Pu`u Pua`i in 1959
Photograph by S.R. Brantley on August 6, 1998

View is from Crater Rim Drive toward the southwest. This area was blanketed with tephra about 1 m thick during the 1959 eruption of Kilauea Iki and is known as the Devastation Area because of the widespread destruction of vegetation. The tephra layer is more than 5 m thick adjacent to Kilauea Iki and thins to about 3 mm at a distance 4 km downwind (southwest from Kilauea Iki). The tephra fell across two ecological zones of Stone and Pratt, rainforest and mid-elevation woodlands (see reference and map below).

Scientists who studied the subsequent growth of vegetation in the Devastation Area identified six habitat areas based on the character of the tephra layer and remains of former vegetation. The view above is within a habitat where the layer varies from 3 m to 30 cm thick and nearly all of the `Ohi`a trees growing at the time of the eruption survived.

The plants most visible in this image include the following common names (Family, Genus):

  • `Ohelo (Heath, Vacinium), low-lying plant in low center
  • `A`ali`i (Soapberry, Dodonea), single stem growing from left side of `Ohelo
  • Kukaenene (Coffee, Coprosma), above `Ohelo in shadow
  • Na`ena`e (Sunflower, Dubautia), base of `Ohi`a trees in right center
  • `Ohi`a (Myrtle, Metrosideros), trees in background
  • Pukiawe (Epacris, Styphelia), common in area but not discernable in image

Map of ecological zones in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park

Seven ecological zones exist within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, which includes 97,000 hectares that extend from the ocean to the summits of Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Each zone consists of distinct plant and animal communities. Kilauea's caldera is surrounded by three zones: rain forest on the east, upland forests and woodlands on the northwest, and mid-elevation woodlands to the south.

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Smathers, G.A., and Mueller-Dombois, D., 1974, Invasion and recovery of vegetation after a volcanic eruption in Hawaii: National Park Service Monograph Series, no. 5, 129 p.

Stone, C.P., and Pratt, L.W., 1994, Hawai`i's plants and animals -- Biological sketches of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: University of Hawaii Press, p. 399.

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Updated: 15 September 1998