HAWAII ISLAND – Retail giant Walmart has agreed to phase out the sale of two plants from garden centers in Hawaii stores over concerns that the flora could become a damaging invasive species in the islands.
Night-blooming jasmine and medinilla have been identified as being in the early stages of invasion into natural areas on the Big Island and other places around the state, and will reportedly be dropped from the Walmart garden center inventory.
The Big Island Invasive Species Committee says it collaborated with Walmart to get the company to join a growing list of local nurseries that are working to “Plant Pono” and discontinue the sale of invasive plants.
Night-blooming jasmine and medinilla model “the unfortunate pattern of ornamental plants escaping cultivation to become a problem for native forests,” BIISC states. Both plants score high on the Hawaii-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment, a tool used by specialists as a “background check” for plants.
“A score of 6 indicates a high risk that the plant will become invasive in Hawaii,” wrote BIISC in a media release. “Night blooming jasmine, a popular, sweet smelling landscape plant, scores a staggering 18. Medinilla, a shrub with dark leaves and a showy pink or purple bloom, is closely related to the miconia, clidemia, and tibouchina plants which plague landscapes across the islands.”
BIISC says the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has declared them two of Hawaii’s “Most Invasive Horticultural Plants” for the tendency to spread into wild areas and form thickets that smother surrounding vegetation.
BIISC reached out to Walmart in February to inform them of the potential invaise nature of the plants. Federal regulations do not necessarily prevent the import of invasive plants into Hawaii, BIISC says, because existing regulations are not Hawaii-specific and don’t take into account the increased vulnerability of islands to invasive species. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture was supportive of the voluntary removal, since adding a plant to the restricted list can take years.
“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 Plant Pono program is a joint effort of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) administered on the Big Island by BIISC. The program 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 (BMPs) developed by local researchers to control coqui and little fire ant.