Local organization on a quest to rid Molokai of a leafy pest.

Wanted: The Australian Tree Fern

By Mapuana Hanapi  

The Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee (MoMISC) has been hard at work combating the spread of invasive pests  including the Australian tree fern. MoMISC has recently gone on a door-to-door campaign educating the public about the invasive fern.  During this campaign homeowners who had the tree ferns in their yards were asked to get rid of the nasty plant.  Everyone has been very cooperative and we would like to thank them for their support and kokua in keeping Molokai safe from this invasive plant.

During the door-to-door removal effort one homeowner reported retrieving the plant from the Pala`au State Park in Kalae. It has been discovered that a large population of the tree fern has naturalized in this cool forested area. We would like to ask any other homeowners who may have taken ferns from the same area to call MoMISC to identify your find.  We’re also asking the community not to retrieve any tree ferns from Kalae area.  Australian tree ferns have the potential to spread and grow exponentially and MoMISC is working with The Nature Conservancy to keep this threat from spreading.

The Australian tree fern and Hapu’u fern are very similar.  The best way to distinguish between the ferns is to examine the trunk.  If dead leaves break off the trunk and leave little eyes, it’s probably an Australian tree fern.  When native Hapu’u leaves die they stay attached to the trunk. Also, Hapu’u ferns have darker brownish-red hairs on their stems while Australian tree ferns have flat, whitish-tan hair close to where they are attached to the trunk. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to give MoMISC a call and they will be out to inspect your fern. 

Why does MoMISC consider Australian tree ferns invasive?  These ferns grow up to 40 feet tall and block sunlight from reaching native plants growing under them.  They can out-multiply the native Hapu’u.  Australian tree ferns reproduce from spores located on their trunk.  The spores can spread over 7 miles, which is a vast area considering the small size of Molokai.  Kauai spent over $50,000 last year to control Australian tree fern on their island. 

Even though a naturalized population in Kalae is bad news, MoMISC will continue to eradicate the fern from the island.  We ask everyone to continue to report sightings of the Australian tree fern.  If MoMISC and the community continue working together this invasive plant can be stopped.  If you would like more information about the fern you can visit the HEAR website at www.hear.og or the airport kiosk during the month of September 2007.  To report a sighting of an Australian tree fern or to ask questions, call the MoMISC office at 553-5236 extension 204.



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