Archive for February 2012

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” —the Once-ler from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss

In anticipation of “The Lorax” movie opening March 2, a national restaurant chain has been giving away bookmarks with seeds of blue-spruce and Canadian white pine.

A press release dated February 21st 2012 explains the program: “In keeping with the animated adventure’s theme that one person can make a difference, IHOP is distributing three million limited-edition bookmarks embedded with seed paper that can be planted to flourish across a range of climates and forest condition.”

It’s great to encourage kids to plant trees. Unfortunately these aren’t the Truffula trees that the Lorax fought to protect. Planting alien trees in Hawai‘i can be tricky. The characteristics of the bookmark trees that allow them flourish across a range of climates and forest conditions can also help them invade and outcompete native species. In Hawai‘i pines have a reputation of escaping cultivation into high-elevation ecosystems. Think twice before planting these pines in our forests. As the voiceover from the movie trailer says when the boy receives the last seed of the Truffula tree, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”

After concerns were raised, distribution of the seeds was discontinued in Hawaii.

Make the Lorax proud and plant a tree that is regionally appropriate to the area. Find suggestions of native Hawaiian plants here:

And on a final note: ever notice how a lehua blossom on an ‘ōh‘ia looks a bit like a Truffula tree?

A Truffula tree for Hawai‘ (‘ōh‘ia photos by Forest & Kim Starr).

A Truffula tree for Hawai‘i (‘ōh‘ia photos by Forest & Kim Starr).

Make National Invasive Species Week last all year

National Invasive Species Week is February 26 to March 3. While it’s great to pay attention for the week, here are a few simple actions, one for each month, to help make a difference on the invasive species front:

*Note: This list was originally published in the January 8th edition of the Maui News.

Start by removing invasive species in your own back yard, like this ornamental pampas grass.

Start by removing invasive species in your own back yard, like this ornamental pampas grass.

January—check backyard first. Take a look in your own yard to see what invasive species you might be harboring– then remove ‘em! Backyards are often the source for plants and animals that escape to wreak havoc in our environment. If the plant or animal is a target for the Maui Invasive Species Committee, such as pampas grass or coqui frogs, call us and we’ll give you a hand.

February—be pest-savvy. The last week of February is National Invasive Species Awareness week. Take part by learning about a new invasive plant or animal and how to control or report it. Start at,,, or check for monthly editions of this column, then share what you know.

March—buy local—Maui local. Many pests are limited to just one island, but they spread when potted plants, cut flowers, equipment, even produce is moved between islands. Support Maui’s economy and protect our island by bringing home locally grown products. Avoid ordering seeds on the Internet as some plants may be invasive in Hawaii.

April—clean your gear. Headed out diving, snorkeling or hiking?  Give your gear a thorough rinse or

Clean your gear-boots, fins, packs, and cars-regularly to prevent the spread of hithchiking invasive species.

Clean your gear-boots, fins, packs, and cars-regularly to prevent the spread of hithchiking invasive species.

scrub to remove any hitchhiking seeds (check the tongue of your boots), algae, or insect eggs before you head out. And don’t neglect to check your car periodically, both the underside as well as the inside.

May—volunteer. You will meet interesting people and learn more about Maui. Many groups have weekend volunteer trips where you can lend a hand removing invasive species or planting native species. Find an organization at

June—survey your yard for the little fire ant. This tiny ant often arrives unnoticed, but it can become a huge problem. Currently no known infestations exist on Maui, but there is a high likelihood they will arrive again. Surveying is as easy as peanut butter and a chopstick. Learn more at

July—travel smart. Check twice before you bring something interisland. Plants and plant cuttings must be inspected by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture before being taken interisland to ensure there are no unwanted pests or diseases riding along.

August—take a hike, but with new eyes.  Public reports are one of the best ways we learn about new invasive species.  So cruise around the neighborhood, or go for a walk in the forest. See a bird you’ve never seen before or a new plant that looks like it’s taking over? Take a photo and let someone know.

September—be neighborly.  Some invasive species problems are too big to tackle alone, but left unchecked will become everyone’s problem.  Offer to help out your neighbors with an invasive species in their yard.

Landscaping with native species, like this ālula, will also help save water. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr.

October—go native in your yard. Hawaiian plants have never been more available for landscaping. In addition to being a unique addition to your landscape, these species won’t be invasive and offer habitat for native animals. Another plus – these plants evolved to survive on rainfall, so when selected to match your climate, they can help you save water.

November—eat an invasive. The season of eating offers plenty of edible invasive species, from axis deer to pigs to.  Make a meal, or part of a meal, in the spirit of removing invasive species. For more information (and recipes) check out

December—celebrate in holiday style with an invasive pine tree.  Each year Friends of Haleakala National Park and The Nature Conservancy lead December trips to remove invasive pines from areas in and near Haleakala National Park. Find details for the Friends trip at and for the TNC trip by calling 572-7849. Other trips may be listed in the newspaper.

This year make a resolution to help address invasive species— just one simple activity a month can add up to make a big difference in our community.

Article by Lissa Fox Strohecker

Originally published in the Maui News, January 8th, 2012 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column.
You can find all the articles in the Kia‘i Moku series

Give your loved one the gift of local this Valentine’s Day

Phalaenopis orchid

Locally-grown orchids-a great Valentine's gift that helps your neighborhood nurseryman and prevents the introduction of invasive species. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

Flowers. When it comes to courting your Valentine, you gotta have ‘em. Roses may be the standby for the holiday, but don’t overlook the beautiful, locally grown cut flowers available. This year, express your love for Maui as you woo your Valentine with a creative choice of flowers.

The locavore movement is nothing new; eating locally grown food has steadily gained support over recent years with restaurants highlighting Kula greens and Maui onions. Buying other products grown on Maui, like flowers presented on Valentine’s Day, is yet another way to help our community by preventing the import of invasive species and growing the local economy.

Like agriculture, the floral industry has become increasingly globalized. During just one week in February 2008, flowers and foliage shipped to Maui came from Columbia, Italy, Thailand, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ecuador, Peru, California and Florida. Some shipments are refused or incinerated at the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture inspection facility because they carry pests and diseases not known to be in Hawai‘i. But consumers can help stem the introduction of hitchhiking pests.

“If we can buy locally grown things, there is less risk of invasive species being spread and it helps local businesses,” explains Glenn Sakamoto, training and education specialist with HDOA.

Anthuriums, another readily available flower on Maui. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

Carver Wilson of Maui Floral knows firsthand about the hitchhiking pests carried in cut flowers and foliage. He and other florists throughout the state have voluntarily cut back on their use of eucalyptus and wax myrtle as foliage in arrangements. These plants in the myrtle family are imported from out-of-state and are the likely culprit for bringing in the invasive ‘ōh‘ia rust that spread quickly, killing rose apple trees throughout the state. “The rust is a detriment, so we chose to use something else,” Wilson says. The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture is in the process of pursuing a permanent ban on the import of myrtle plants to protect against new strains of the rust out of concern for protecting native ‘ōh‘ia.

Some of Wilson’s suggestions for locally grown bouquets: Orchids, pincushion or king protea, anthuriums and ginger. These flowers are symbolic in their own right. Orchids represent love, luxury, beauty and strength; proteas represent diversity and courage; and anthuriums, hospitality.

To highlight the Hawai‘i floral industry, HDOA featured a bouquet of locally grown possibilities at last year’s Maui Agricultural Festival. Working with growers on Maui and the Big Island, HDOA showcased fabulous floral arrangements by professionals and offered festivalgoers the opportunity to create their own works of art using locally grown flowers. A similar event was held on the Big Island.

King Protea

Proteas symbolize beauty and strength, a perfect expression for the strong and beautiful Valentine in your life. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

The events are one part of an effort to encourage replacing imported goods with Hawai‘i-grown products. This year consider where your flowers are coming from; it’s an opportunity to help protect Hawai‘i from invasive pests while showing a little love to your local flower grower and your loved one. As Wilson says, “I absolutely support and suggest people use locally grown flowers; it helps us all.”

Article by Lissa Fox Strohecker

Originally published in the Maui News, February 12th, 2012 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column.
You can find all the articles in the Kia‘i Moku series


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