Miconia calvescens

Miconia is not known to be on Pohnpei, but should even a single plant arrive we would have to act very quickly to destroy the plant and all of its seeds.  Learn the face of this potential enemy.  The following materials are Hawaiian materials.  If you do find what you believe to be Miconia on Pohnpei, contact the Nature Conservancy on Pohnpei (320-4267) or the Office of Agriculture and Forestry (320-2400/320-7457) immediately. The images below can be clicked on to obtain a larger image.

miconia04_200h.JPG (37496 bytes)miconia01thumb.jpg (7546 bytes)miconia02thumb.jpg (5966 bytes)miconia03thumb.jpg (6242 bytes)miconia05thumb.JPG (5316 bytes)

Introduced to a botanical garden on Tahiti in 937, Miconia quickly escaped by bird carried seeds. Over 60% of the island is heavily invaded with dark groves of Miconia trees, replacing the native forest and its wildlife. French Polynesia scientists estimate 1/4 of indigenous Tahitian species are threatened with extinction. Miconia can do the same in Hawaii, since habitats are similar.

Miconia calvescens the Melastome Family has an attractive leaf which lures people to transplant it and unknowingly start infestations. it has superficial roots that allow excessive soil erosion.

URGENT.- Please display this poster about a plant that can kill by starving native flora for light and nutrients, and can reduce the value of crop and forage lands.

Further Information on Miconia

A purple leaf underside is the most easily recognizable feature, along with a velvety or shiny dark green color and three bold leaf veins. The hundreds of small, pink fruits each contain 150 seeds, and are attractive to fruit-eating birds, which spread the seeds great distances.

Introduced to a botanical garden on Tahiti in 1937, Miconia quickly escaped by bird carried seeds. Over 60% of the island is heavily invaded with dark groves of Miconia trees, replacing the native forest and its wildlife. French Polynesia scientists estimate 1/4 of indigenous Tahitian species are threatened with extinction. Miconia can do the same in Hawaii, since habitats are similar.

The most frightening aspect of the tropical American tree Miconia (which left its natural control agents at home) is its ability to thrive in shade as well as sunlight. Seedlings spring up even in deep shade, providing excessive competition in gardens and for native plants, especially ferns in natural areas. Hawaii noxious plant experts urge that it be eradicated by everyone.

To protect agriculture and the unique ecosystems of Hawai'i, it is imperative to recognize threats before they become out of control. People from Tahiti have warned state agriculture officials in Hawai'i of the seriousness of this pest to prevent the spread of Miconia. To control it in French Polynesia, a new quarantine rule is attempting to limit the spread of this "purple botanic plague."

Citizens can perform a valuable service to the native flora and fauna in the ecosystems of Hawai'i by increasing awareness of the threat of non-native plants and animals. Most importations are made with good intentions, not realizing the possible dire consequences. You can help slow the spread of this weed. It is important to alert the general public, nurseries, and botanical gardens on the dangers posed by this seemingly innocent, ornamental plant. It threatens to be a bigger pest than Koster's Curse (Clidemia hirta), another aggressive member of the prolific and infamous melastome family.

Please help by reporting new locations so that officials may map all sites and devise an effective control strategy. Phone or write the nearest contact listed on the reverse side with information on the size, quantity and locations of Miconia. Land owners are urged to cooperate by pulling up or cutting down and killing Miconia. Efforts to contain patches should continue until a long term solution, such as biological control by natural enemies, is developed.

Miconia Article

Miconia: Fast-Growing Weed Tree Alarms Scientists
by Timothy Hurley, Staff Writer
Reprinted from Maui News, May 1991

Always wary of threats to native species, the scientists at Haleakala National Park have launched a campaign against another island newcomer that threatens to overrun native forests. This time the focus is on an aggressive invader named Miconia calvescens, a tree species in the melastome family from South and Central America.

Scientists say Miconia has shown what is can to to destroy native forests on other tropical islands, and its aggressive characteristics already are apparent from their brief experience here.

The tree has been found in at least seven locations on Maui, and scientists say if they can get on top of it now, the problem might be quashed. But they're really not sure of the scope of this problem. Lloyd Loope, Haleakala research scientist, said he is hopeful the species can be kept in check on Maui by uprooting what they've found by hand. That's not the case on the Big Island, he said, where Miconia has gained a foothold in the native forests and where scientists are trying to figure out some sort of biological control.

An attractive plant with huge, 2-foot long dark green leaves with purple undersides, Miconia was introduced to Hawaii within the decade through the horticulture indus try on at least three islands; Hawaii, Oahu and Maui, the scientist said.

All species are thought to be held in check in their native habitat by natural agents that have evolved to exploit them. Released from these natural enemies allows some to species to thrive spectacularly when introduced to a new area where its enemies are absent. This is the case with Miconia.

After only a few years of growth, the Miconia tree can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds a year. Scientists say Miconia has infiltrated the forests of Tahiti and Moorea over the past two decades. It has also has taken over parts of Sri Lanka.

"It can be a major, major problem here," cautioned Clifford Smith, University of Hawaii botany professor. "It could really be a disaster for the wet native forests."

Haleakala scientists learned about the threat of Miconia here recently when one of the park's employees noticed a single tree growing in Alii Gardens near Hana. The owner agreed to remove the plant. Since that time, the scientists have learned the weed is spreading on Maui at a disturbing pace, Loope said. Loope said the Miconia is believed to have first reached windward eastern Maui in the early 1980's, with the original plants having already grown more than 30 feet tall and producing abundant seedlings.

One particularly large stand, with dozens of trees, is found in Helani Gardens in Hana. "When I saw it at Helani, it was the first time I said, 'Wow, this is a problem,' " Loope recalled. Helani owner Howard Cooper said he discovered the plant in his garden about five years ago when it appeared with some other potted plants he had bought. "It's a beautiful plant but it's a pest," he said.

Prepared by the Conservation Council for Hawaii, P.O. Box 2923, Honolulu, HI 96802, Noxious Plants Task Force, Betsy H. Gagn6 & Steven L. Montgomery, Ph.D., in coordination with the Committee on Introduced Species. Support provided by Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Hawaiian Botanical Society Waimea Arboretum Foundation, Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter and Maui Group, National Audubon Society and Hawaii Audubon Society.

What Is It? Why Is it a threat?

What can you do?

If you think you've found Miconia, call the Nature Conservancy. An expert will confirm your sighting (several other plants look like Miconia) and will tell you what to do next.

Share this flier with your family, neighbors, and community groups.

Open Letter circulated in Hawaii

Dear Concerned Citizen:

Have you heard about the noxious weed Miconia? Recently, several Miconia (Miconia calvescens) plants were found in the Wailua Homestead area, and we are concerned about its further spread on Kauai.

Miconia is an invasive forest pest that occurs on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. Once cultivated as an ornamental because of its huge showy leaves, Miconia is now considered a threat to Hawaii's unique ecosystem. It is capable of displacing desirable plant species with its aggressive tendencies. In Tahiti, Miconia has reportedly invaded 60% of the island's landmass. The plant can attain a great size, reaching heights of 30 feet or more. Miconia seeds are readily spread by birds that are attracted to the plant's fleshy fruits. More information on Miconia is provided on the enclosed flyer.

There is a good chance that the present infestation on Kauai can be eradicated, but we need your help. Please report any sightings of Miconia to our Lihue office at 241-3414.

Let's work together to stamp out this destructive pest.

Aloha pumehana,
Chairperson, Board of Agriculture

Lee Ling home
COM-FSM home page