It’s that time of year again when all kinds of Christmas goodies are being sent worldwide. Everything from cookies, toys, trees, and wreaths shows up at stores to be taken home. According to Civil beat Hawaiʻi, an average of 250,000 Christmas trees – primarily Douglas or Noble firs- are imported from Oregon and Washington islands. Along with all the goodies coming to Hawaʻi for Christmas, there looms an ever-present threat to our ecosystems. Invasive species like snakes, wasps, and slugs have been found in shipments of Christmas trees for many years. A 2015 USDA study found that importing live plant materials is the highest risk pathway for introducing new pests and diseases to Hawaiʻi. Invasive pests are excellent hitchhikers, such as little fire ants, coqui frogs, semi-slugs, and more, all introduced accidentally on imported plant materials.
2022 has been a very active year for the Kauaʻi Invasive species committee, with the discovery of two new Little Fire Ant infestations on the island and managing our other target species. This year we encourage our community to opt for a native or non-imported alternative to the standard significant box store options.
Alaheʻe trees can grow as large as 30 feet once planted in the ground, but most Keiki are the perfect size for apartments or small spaces. It has glossy green leaves and produces a cluster of white, fragrant flowers that bloom in the spring and early fall. While they grow well in pots to start and require little maintenance, the trees should be kept outdoors when it’s not the holidays, says Rick Barboza of Hui Ku Maoli Ola Nursery on Oʻahu.
Many local nurseries and businesses sell locally grown Douglas firs, Leyland Cypress, and Norfolk pines. Norfolk pines – originally from Norfolk Island in the South Pacific Ocean – are a top choice for buyers because they can live up to four months after being cut. Another positive is that these pines don’t lose hundreds of needles and create the dreaded mess in our homes.
Topiary Trees & Podocarpus Trees
Topiary Trees are another excellent option for small spaces if you are looking for a mini tree. They are a popular landscaping plant for hedges. Another appealing option is the Podocarpus gracilior tree. A type of conifer with many additional uses in the landscape post-Christmas, such as a hedge, ornamental, or shade tree. Both of these trees are available at Seascape Nursery, located in Kalihiwai.
Check Out Our Plant Pono Endorsed nursery. Plant Pono is a statewide endorsement program that partners local small nurseries and landscapers with their island’s perspective Invasive species Committee. These Nurseries have pledged to do all they can to minimize the spread of invasive species and pests by following recommended best management practices in their business.