To the writer of the Dec. 6 letter regarding the suspicious plant found along a Maui Lani road: Thanks for keeping your eyes open. Members of the public are the first to notice incipient invasive species. Public reports are essential to protecting Hawaii from invasive species. The most efficient way to prevent establishment of invasive species is to nip the infestation in the bud immediately.
The purple-flowered plant you noticed along the Maui Lani roadway is most likely a species of crown flower, Calotropis procera. Forest and Kim Starr regularly drive Maui’s roads mapping the distribution of invasive plants. Calotropis was first detected in 2001 and is widespread and naturalized on Maui. The plant is also on Hawaii island, Kauai and Lanai. It is indeed invasive, rating as a high-risk plant by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment, a background check to predict a plant’s invasive potential based on its biology.
Unfortunately, Calotropis is too widespread to be eradicated from the islands. Like many invasive plants, it invades disturbed areas such as those found following a fire or after land is cleared. Calotropis has invaded the dune ecosystem of Central Maui and is being removed for ecological restoration at Kanaha Beach.
If you would like more information on the plant, you can visit the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk website, www.hear.org. To learn more about early detection programs on Maui, you can visit www.reportapest.org or call the Maui Invasive Species Committee at 573-6472.
Public Relations and Education Specialist
Maui Invasive Species Committee