Maui national park visitors accused of taking rare plants

HONOLULU — Charges are pending against two visitors of Haleakala National Park after they were seen removing federally protected plants from near the Maui crater, authorities said.

A visitor saw a woman take two juvenile silversword plants and hide them in her clothes Monday before leaving the summit area of Haleakala, park officials said.

The threatened silversword plants are found only on the slopes of Haleakala at altitudes above 6,900 feet (2,100 meters).

The witness took a photo of the car the woman departed in and alerted park law enforcement officers. Authorities apprehended the woman and the driver with the plants in later that day, park spokesman Charles Lassiter said.

“We were lucky to have the assistance of a dedicated visitor,” said Park Chief Ranger Ari Wong. “These plants are already so rare, picking them is illegal for a very good reason. Our most important job here in the park is to protect species like this.”

While visitors to the park are encouraged to take photos of the silverswords, removing or damaging the plants is a federal crime, park officials said.

The two shiny silver plants were recovered and park biologists will try to replant them.

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