Be Pono! 5 Common Invasive Species To Terminate Today

What comes to mind when you hear the word “invasive?”

Google defines the word in relation to plants as something that spreads prolifically, undesirably or harmfully.

I liken the term to a disease. When a bacteria or virus enters your body it can rapidly take over and render you in-able to function as a healthy person. With regular maintenance and upkeep however you may be able to keep invasive bacteria and virus’s in check and stay healthy and strong. You are then able to carry out a variety of tasks and an ability to add to the greater good of your community.

Plants are really similar to humans. Invasive plant species can quickly become a disease affecting the ecology of our sensitive Hawaiian ecosystems. This balance is crucial to the perpetuation of well-being for all creatures great and small that call Hawaii home. This includes you!

 The Pono Endorsement Program

The Pono Endorsement Program at Kauai Invasive Species Committee is taking action against Invasive Species. They invite all to “Be a Guardian… Protect the forest from your backyard.” They are a “voluntary partnership of government, private and non-profit organizations, and concerned individuals working to prevent, control, or eliminate the most threatening invasive plant and animal species in order to preserve Kauai’s native biodiversity and minimize adverse ecological, economic and social impacts.”Whew! So basically they are Rockstars for the environment.

They’ve put together a list to help you identify which Invasive Species may be lurking in your backyard. Take a look and take action to being a Pono planter and gardener. There is also a do not plant list to help you be proactive in your landscaping endeavors. Practice pono planting procedures and check it out!

Pono Project People

The crew over at KISC

The 5 Most Common Invasive Species to Terminate Today

We talked to Rachel over at the Pono Endorsement Program  and she gave us 5 easily identifiable plants that may be growing in our yards that we can abolish today.

1) Rubbervine



  • Fast growing, climbing plant usually with pinkish-purple flowers (sometimes white to pink or light purple). Can also grow as a bush.
  • Shiny, dark green leaves that are about 7 cm (3 in) long, with triangular, 10 cm long (4 in) seedpods that grow in wing-like pairs.
  • Native to Madagascar, introduced to Hawaii as drought-resistant ornamentals


  • Grows over other plants and trees to 13 m (45 ft) high, smothering and killing other vegetation.
  • Twines tightly around other plants and restricts their growth.
  • Extremely poisonous: it contains cardiac glycosides, which interfere with heart functioning in humans and animals when the plant is eaten.
  • When the vine is dry, a powdery dust emerges and can cause violent coughing, swelling of the nose, and blistering of the eyelids.
  • Contact with the plant’s milky sap can cause burning rashes and blisters.
  • Each seedpod contains 340-840 seeds, silky hairs on seeds allow them to spread by wind and water, seeds are also known to float and survive for a month in salt water before being washed ashore to sprout.
  • Introduced to Western Australia, now considered one of the 10 worst invasive plants.

On Kauai:

Limited populations in Kekaha, Kalaheo, Poipu, Lihue, Wailua, and Princeville. KISC is currently educating the public about the invasiveness of this species. Property owners are encouraged to allow treatment and removal of these plants.

This is a plant that KISC will personally remove from your property! (it’s that bad)

2) Barbados Gooseberry



  • Woody shrub when young, grows into climbing, leafy cactus, with branches are up to 11m (33 ft) long
  • Fragrant flowers (can be lemon, sweet, or repulsive smelling) and round yellow-red berries
  • Native to the West Indies and the northern coast of South America, introduced intentionally to Hawaii for horticulture (as an ornamental or for its fruit)


  • Forms dense, thorny thickets in low elevations, overgrows and replaces other plants
  • It is extremely thorny with spines on both the trunks and vines
  • Destroys patches of forest by growing up into the canopy and smothering the trees
  • Easily spread by rooting broken stem fragments as well as by birds when seeds are present
  • Has become a major weed in South Africa where it is an escaped ornamental

On Kauai:

Individual small populations have been found in Lawai, Poipu, and Aliomanu. KISC is treating opportunistically with landowner permission.

3) Ivy Gourd

Ivy Gourd

Considered very invasive and is on the Hawaii State Noxious Weed List. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has designated this species as one of Hawaii’s Most Invasive Horticultural Plants.


  • Fast-growing vine with ivy-shaped leaves, white flowers, and 1-3 inch long red fruits.
  • Native to tropical Africa and Asia, introduced to Hawaii as a backyard food crop (known as “Thai spinach”)


  • Vines grow over and smother vegetation, and cover fences and power lines.
  • Threatens natural and managed areas.
  • Difficult to control because plants regrow from deep roots, even after treating with herbicide.
  • Although ivy gourd requires cross-pollination between male and female plants, it is able to spread quickly and can grow up to four inches per day.

On Kauai:

  • KISC has been actively treating small populations in Kekaha, Poipu, Lihue, Moloaa, Anahola, and Hanalei. Please report any sightings!

4) African Tulip

African Tulip


  • Native to Western Africa
  • A highly sought after ornamental tree, growing up to 75 feet tall!


  • It is both an environmental and garden weed.
  • A highly prolific seeder, with wind dispersed seeds.
  • It spreads rapidly, crowding out native forests, and forms monotypic stands.

On Kauai:

  • African Tulip has escaped many gardens and is naturalizing throughout Kauai.

5) Blue Sky Vine

Blue Sky Vine


  • Native to China and Southeast Asia.
  • Highly aggressive ornamental vine that is both an environmental and garden weed.


  • Thunbergia escapes gardens by seed, roots, cuttings, or by spreading.
  • This plant is highly sough after for its flowers and ability to rapidly grow. However, it will quickly blanket any other plants in its path, shading both the over and understory of a forest.

On Kauai:

  • It is known to be highly invasive on roadsides island-wide, and in forested areas adjacent to residential areas.

What can you do?

  1. Become a Guardian! Guardians of the Garden Isle are concerned citizens of Kauai who have committed to help protect the island from invasive species. Sign up!
  2. Clean or brush off your gear/shoes/dogs, after hiking or hunting in the forest. Stop the seeds and plants from spreading!
  3. Report a pest.  If you think you see a mongoose, hear a coqui frog, or see any other invasive species listed on the KISC Pest page, let KISC know about it!
  4. Plant Natives. Native plants are easy to maintain, are more ecologically harmonious, and are Pono!
  5. Buy Local! We source locally grown plants and materials which is key in protecting Kauai from invasive species that can easily hitch hike in plants from other islands.
  6. Look for Pono Endorsed Nurseries and landscaping companies like Kauai Seascapes Nursery. These companies have made a commitment to be Pono in their practice. Which means they will clean their landscaping equipment between work sites to ensure weeds are not spreading from one yard to the next. Serina has made a commitment to not carry plants listed on either the Pono Endorsement Programs Black List or Phase Out List. Kauai Seascapes Nursery is also quarantining any plants they might order from other islands with Coqui Frogs or Little Fire Ants. This extra step is minimizing the spread of these invasive species.

Serina and the Pono Endorsement Program

Be Pono

The Hawaii Electronic Library  defines the word Pono to describe when something is done completely, properly, rightly, well, exactly, carefully, and satisfactorily. No doubt those are qualities we’d like to see active in any business as well as in our island home environment. When we take the time to take care and make sure that we are caring for our island in a careful, proper, and loving way we will be happy!


One Response to Be Pono! 5 Common Invasive Species To Terminate Today

  1. Sherry June 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    Such great info! I didn’t know my favorite tree (African Tulip). Is a trouble maker ?

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