Vacationing families aren’t the only tourists on the Hawaiian Islands. Non-native plants are also soaking up the sun and enjoying Hawaii’s tropical paradise, but according to the Landscape Industry Council of Hawai’i, these plants have overstayed their welcome.
Thanks to its tropical climate, unique geography, and years of isolation, Hawaii boasts one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. But the introduction of non-native plants looms as a constant threat to Hawaii’s postcard-worthy landscapes. Foreign plants interact with an ecosystem unpredictably, often requiring different amounts of space, water, and light than the native plants that have evolved in the environment. As a result, non-native plants can create a challenging environment for the local foliage and flora.
Native plants offer ecosystems and their surrounding communities an array of benefits. These plants often serve the local wildlife more fittingly than non-native plants, and they usually require less water because they are adapted to the local environment’s natural level of rainfall. Additionally, native plants don’t often need the large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides that foreign plants require because they are adapted to the native soil and pests.
To combat this growing problem in Hawaii, the Landscape Industry Council of Hawai’i has created new posters to educate the local population about the importance of growing and buying local plants. LICH, a statewide alliance of landscape trade associations, leads efforts throughout the archipelago to promote sustainability. With these new posters, LICH gives Hawaiians a comprehensive guide to planting, growing, and preserving native plants. Click here to download the poster from LICH.
LICH urges Hawaiians to “plant local” in order to protect the unique natural diversity that makes Hawaii so special. “While we can use colorful and more hardy ornaments from elsewhere, why would we want to look like every other tropical island?” says Chris Dacus, president of the Council. “If that’s not enough, consider the dire situation of the Hawaiian dry grassland and forest habitat, which hosts most of our human developments – it’s one of the most endangered habitats on the planet. Our cities host less than one percent native species, and the future is either zero percent or two percent. Zero percent is unacceptable. Let’s keep Hawaii, Hawaii.
LICH’s “buy native, grow native” campaign may be tailored for Hawaiians, but the message should be heard everywhere. Local plants make communities more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sustainable. By using less water, less fertilizer, and fewer pesticides, planting local creates diverse, productive communities from the ground up, literally. From the tropical rainforests of Hawaii to the wildflowers of your own backyard, choosing native, local plants will ensure there’s plenty of paradise to go around.
By: Alexandra Gladu
Alex is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is double-majoring in Public Relations and Spanish. Since becoming an intern with Independent We Stand, she has fully adopted the ‘buy local’ lifestyle. Her favorite indie business is Sugarland, a bakery in Chapel Hill, N.C, where she has been known to go a little cupcake crazy. She hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in nonprofit or political communication.