Metrosideros polymorpha ('ōhi'a, 'ōhi'a lehua) is an important foundation species in Hawaiian forest habitats. The genus originated in New Zealand and was dispersed to the Hawaiian archipelago approximately 3.9 million years ago. It evolved into five distinct endemic species and one of these, Metrosideros polymorpha, further differentiated into eight varieties across what are now the main Hawaiian Islands. 'Ōhi'a is a tree that has great significance in indigenous Hawaiian culture. It is considered a physical manifestation of several principal Hawaiian deities, and serves a broad range of uses in Hawaiian material culture. It occupies a wide diversity of habitats, extending from sea level to over 2,200 m elevation, occupying habitats that range from extremely wet to dry rainfall zones. It is the dominant or codominant tree species in wet and mesic forests and is also one of the first woody species to become established on young lava flows. Although 'ōhi'a is a dominant forest tree it also exhibits many characteristics of a pioneer species. 'Ōhi'a provides the matrix for a wide diversity of endemic plants and animals found in these habitats and functions as the primary vegetation cover on native Hawaiian watersheds, facilitating groundwater recharge and regulating surface runoff. 'Ōhi'a has shown remarkable resilience by recolonizing forests that were opened up by disturbance, such as the widespread 'ōhi'a canopy dieback that occurred on East Maui in the 1900s and on the east side of the Island of Hawai'i in the 1970s. Several human-related conditions threaten the continued stability of Hawaii's native ecosystems, including invasive plants, plant diseases, introduced animals, and changing climate. The research and conservation legacy of Dr. Dieter Mueller-Dombois helped to expand our knowledge of the ecology and importance of 'ōhi'a forests, and to increase awareness and appreciation of the remarkable Hawaiian ecosystems that are unique to the world.