Hunting for Hawaii's invasive species

Chelsea Arnott
Chelsea Arnott

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) - They are helping Hawaii go green, but some plants also pose problems in our islands.

And its up to one Oahu team to hunt for Hawaii's invasive species.

High in the mountains above Manoa, a group of hikers is prepared for a rough climb. But they're not seeking out scenic sights.

"They have to come out everyday, go off trail, climb up waterfalls, up real steep terrain, sliding down mountains, I mean it's hard stuff," said Chelsea Arnott, with the Oahu Invasive Species Committee.

Instead they are searching for this, a plant with purple colored leaves - miconia.

While it may look harmless, this species is a killer to other plants in the forest.

A four foot invasive plant hasn't reached maturity yet, its doesn't have any fruits or seeds. But if was fully grown it would tower 50 feet above the forest floor. Blocking native plants from the things they need.

"It takes up resources from our native plants that would normally be growing in the under-story underneath this plant. It takes up the water, the sunlight. It just kills everything," added Arnott.

The seeds of mature plants can be easily spread by birds, that eat the fruit. So the team is always on the hunt to pull the plants, before they become a problem in other parts of the island.

But funding for the Invasive Species team is also in danger of getting weeded out.

Already this group is bracing for a 50% cut to their budget next year.

Which means they may only be able to focus on Miconia, and not control other invasive species.

Like the fountaingrass that grows all over Diamond Head. Its an invasive that could become a big fire threat during summer, if it gets established in Leeward Oahu.

If you are on a hike and see miconia, go ahead and pull it out. But it is just as important that you contact the invasive species team, so they can check to make sure that miconia doesn't re-grow or spread in the area.