Conservationists are working to reduce the spread of an invasive plant that threatens rare species in the high-elevation bogs of Maui.
Hawai’i is a biologically and ecologically diverse island chain. In west Maui’s mountains you can find high-elevation bogs where extremely rare plants thrive. Cyanea magnacalyx, Dwarf Ohia, and Silverswords are a few examples of plants that can be found in this unusual type of ecosystem.
Maui’s high elevation bogs have fencing to protect them from invasive species like feral pigs, goats, and deer. Unfortunately, fencing has not kept out seeds from the invasive Cane Tibouchina (Tibouchina herbacae), which is native to Brazil. The infiltration of this invasive plant into the bogs has stimulated restoration efforts in the sensitive ecosystem.
Tibouchina thrives where there is soil disturbance — whether from pigs or the landslides that helped shape the West Maui mountains. Tibouchina is often the first plant to arrive after a landslide.
The plant is not only damaging to native plants, but also poses a threat to people. Brushing past the plant while hiking can result in irritated skin.
Tibouchina is just one example of a widespread pest with dramatic impacts. Hawai’i has fallen victim to a wide array of invasive plant and animal species. Visitors and residents are encouraged to help mitigate spread of invasive species by cleaning hiking and hunting gear. You can help prevent the spread of invasive species by being mindful about what plants and animals you might be inadvertently carrying with you across ecosystems.
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