Free trees swapped for invasives

Leland Nishek of Kaua‘i Nursery and Landscaping made a special trip to help a customer dispose of his Australian tree fern.

In exchange for the invasive plant, the customer received a bonus tree to replace the invasive at the annual Arbor Day tree giveaway at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center.

Jacqueline Kozak, the educational officer for the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee, was pleased with the response from people who turned out for free trees being distributed in celebration of Arbor Day.

“We had over 400 people turn out,” Kozak said. “When we started, the line of people went down and around the parking lot.”

Kozak was pleased that among the throng were students and teachers who were picking up specimens they were going to plant at school.

Kaua‘i High School band students who were participating in the Veterans Day parade in Lihu‘e were able to make it to the distribution that still had a handful of rare and endangered shrubs as the closing hour approached.

Noah Marshall was one of the youngsters who gingerly carried his specimen of Delissea rhytidosperma (Campanulaceae family), one of the few remaining plants left.

“We just grew too much,” one of the KNL volunteers said. “It’s still kind of leggy since it was in the greenhouse.”

Kozak said the rare plant is endemic to Kaua‘i and will grow to about 6 feet in height. She said each island has a variety that is endemic to that island.

But the highlight of the day was the response to the invasive plants. Kozak said a lot of people read about it in the paper, and he was pleased that the County Council is beginning to take a proactive approach to invasives after learning how much money the Big Island is spending to control the coqui frog problem.

Additionally, Kozak said, they are making progress with the bigger stores like Kmart and Wal-Mart in eliminating the sale of invasives from their nursery shelves.

Earlier in the year, the Kaua‘i Landscape Industry Council members had agreed to stop selling invasive species.

Kozak said Nishek had voluntarily come forth on his own and dug up all the Australian tree ferns growing in his own yard.

In addition to the progress being made to make the public aware of the invasive plants, Kozak said they redesigned their display boards to show “Plant” and “Don’t Plant” pictures and identifications of the affected plants.

“This makes it easy for people to see which plants are affected,” Kozak said.

The Arbor Day giveaway was designed to become more than just a truck from which plants are given away, Kozak said.

“We wanted it to be more of an event. The response was good because people stopped along the ‘Tree Trail’ and talked with the volunteers,” Kozak said. “They didn’t just walk through.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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