East Hawaii News

BIISC Push Moves Local Walmart Stores Towards “Plant Pono” Status

April 28, 2016, 2:03 PM HST
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BIISC photo recognizing a 2015 addition to the "Plant Pono" program. BIISC website photo.

BIISC photo recognizing a 2015 addition to the “Plant Pono” program. BIISC website photo.

The Big Island Invasive Species Committee has added another plant retailer to its list of “Plant Pono” classified nurseries. Under the classification, nurseries have agreed to discontinue the sale of invasive plants.

Walmart has recently agreed to phase out the sale of two plants from its garden centers in Hawai’i: the night-blooming jasmine and medinilla.

BIISC says that both of the plants score high on the Hawai’i-Pacific Weed Risk assessment, which is a tool that specialists use as a “background” check for plants.

With a score of six indicating a high risk of the plant becoming invasive, both plants ranked with a score of 18.

The night-blooming jasmine and medinilla have both been identified as being in the early stages of invasion into natural areas on the Big Island, as well as areas across the state.

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In February, BIISC’s Plant Pono representatives reached out to Walmart officials to share information about the invasiveness of these two plants and request a voluntary discontinuation of sales.

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Federal regulations prevent foreign imports of a number of plant species into the U.S., but those regulations are not Hawai’i-specific and don’t take into account the increased vulnerability of islands to invasive species.

For plants coming from the mainland, Hawai’i state law restricts the movement of just a handful of plant types, and only members of the palm family are outright banned.

BIISC representatives say many retailers and consumers are unaware of the relatively relaxed regulations for importing plants in Hawaii, and assume that if a plant is for sale, it must be safe.

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“Without the voluntary cooperation of nurseries, we simply would have no other way to get these plants out of the supply chain,” says Molly Murphy, early detection specialist at BIISC.

The two plants are commonly available and popular at nurseries across the state due to the ease with which they can be grown. Walmart buyers consulted officials with the state Department of Agriculture before making their decision to discontinue their sale.

The Plant Pono program, a joint effort of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species administered on the Big Island by BIISC, seeks to empower consumers who want to make responsible landscaping purchases.

Nurseries displaying the Plant Pono endorsement logo have agreed to not import or sell any plants which score as invasive and to use best management practices developed by local researchers to control coqui frogs and little fire ants.

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