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The Tasty, Attractive Plant That’s Killing Hawaii’s Forests

It’s delicious. It’s beautiful. It’s… a menace.  Strawberry guava has a sweet flavor and an attractive reddish hue, but it’s also one of the most widespread invasive species in Hawaii. Brought to the islands from southeastern Brazil in 1825, strawberry guava has been wreaking havoc on our delicate ecosystem in myriad ways.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, it creates the following problems in Hawaii:

— Crowd out native plant species

— Break up natural areas

— Disrupt native animal communities

— Alter native ecosystem processes, like water production

— Provide refuge for alien fruit flies that are a major pest of Hawaiian agriculture.

Along with other non-native plants, strawberry guava also adversely impacts the water system. According to one news report, these plants suck up 30 to 50 percent more water than native plants. The result: a net loss of 85 million gallons of water every day.

Fortunately, the good folks at the Department of Land and Natural Resources are on the case. Among the more positive developments has been the establishment of the Nakula reserve, which houses a koa forest and rare birds.

Concerted efforts such as these will help mitigate the fact that Hawaii’s forests don’t house the natural predators that keep invasive species, such as strawberry guava, in check.