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    (Click here to return to Plants & Creatures)

    Common Name:Miconia
    Green & Purple Leaf
    Scientific:Miconia calvescens
    Leaf Color:Green top Purple bottom
    Habitat:Wet, 80+ inches of rain per year

    The Miconia plant was introduced to Hawai'i as an ornamental plant in the 1960's. By the 90's Miconia was found growing in the wild on Maui and the Big Island.

    Miconia is a terribly invasive plant, and one of the largest threats to the fragile ecosystem in Hawai'i. Found mainly in wet areas the plant is easily spread by birds eating the seeds. Known as The Brown Tree Snake of the Plant World and Green Cancer, Miconia chokes out all other plant life.

    Originally introduced in the 1930's to Tahiti, by the 80's Miconia had replaced over 70% of the native forest of that island. Miconia grows in dense thickets, which can reach up to 50 feet in height. The leaves grow up to 3 feet long and are dark green on the top and a striking purple on the underside. The dense leaves prevent sunlight from reaching the forest floor, causing most other plant life to die and finally be choked out and replaced by more Miconia.

    The damage done by Miconia is not limited to the destruction of native plant life. Indeed, the loss of native plant life also threatens native birds that depend on the local plants for survival.

    Miconia infestation is recognized by the State of Hawai'i as a problem and there is an ongoing effort to kill the species wherever it is encountered. You can easily find signs on trails along the Hāmākua Coast that show a picture of the plant and instructions for removal.

    In areas of large infestation the State flies helicopters that spray Garlon 4 to kill the plants. In small breakouts you can easily kill Miconia by pulling out the entire plant including the roots.

    A single Miconia plant

    Bottoms of leaves are vivid purple

    Lanky plants with large leaves

    Green leaf tops

    Pull it out including the roots

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    Nene photo in top graphics by Brenda Zaun