Why, you may wonder, is a group like Malama O Puna, which is dedicated to saving trees, spending all this effort to kill some? MOP’s motto is “Preserving Hawai’i’s precious natural heritage”. Miconia is not part of that heritage, but a recent arrival, brought into our state deliberately, because it is a very attractive looking plant until you get to know it: its leaves are huge, with prominent veins on both upper and lower sides, with dark green velvety upper surface and burgundy underside. It comes from tropical South America, where there are other species which keep it under control. That is not the case here in Hawai ‘i, so it grows rampantly without any natural enemies. Except us. Because it is such a prolific reproducer – the rabbit of the plant world – it is slowly taking over our native forest plants and the bird life which relies on them. In other words, it is a danger to Hawai ‘i’s precious natural heritage.
Malama O Puna is currently coordinating the miconia eradication in the Nanawale Forest Reserve, Halepua’a section. Ann and Zan worked hard in 2006 and killed over 7,000 plants over an area of >40 acres. That included all of the densely infested area, but there is still a large area of sparsely infested forest to be covered, so volunteer opportunities exist for native forest hikers who will be on the lookout for miconia. Call Ann at 965-6273 if you’d like to help. If you spot miconia growing in Leilani, you can call in a report to Jean in the office at 965-9555. If it is in Nanawale, report it to Liz at 965-8080. If you spot miconia anywhere else, please notify Big Island Invasive Species Committee/Operation Miconia at 961-3299.
Every time the Miconia Swat Team enters a new stretch of forest, one of the first things we notice is how beautiful it is. Each area is different, with different native species predominating, different topography, different birdsong. An adventure. Eradicating miconia gives us a chance to experience this beauty, and the satisfaction of knowing that our efforts are preserving it.