Oahu Army Natural Resources Program
Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Native Hawaiian plants and animals dominate the landscape at Oahu’s highest peak: Kaala.
At 4,025 feet, the montane bog towers over Schofield Barracks, Makaha and Waianae; yet, it is still vulnerable to nonnative, weedy plant species that thrive in its cloud forest environment.
On National Public Lands Day, the largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the U.S., volunteers and staff with the Oahu Army Natural Resources Program, or OANRP, and the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife worked together to control some of these invasive plant species on Army and state land at Kaala.
Awarded the National Public Lands Day Department of Defense Legacy Award from the National Environmental Education Foundation for the fifth year in a row, OANRP was able to purchase the supplies needed for volunteers to take on their weedy enemies: Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum palustre) and common rush (Juncus effusus).
Sphagnum moss forms thick carpets across the forest at Kaala, taking over native mosses and reducing seedling success at germination.
“If left alone, weedy Sphagnum moss has the potential to change ecosystem function at Kaala, which is why this project is a priority for the program,” said Jane Beachy, Ecosystem Restoration program manager, OANRP.
A nontoxic mixture of clove oil and citric acid is the tool of the trade for killing moss, and volunteers have been the primary players in keeping this weed in check at Kaala.
Using small hand-pump sprayers, volunteers “paint” the moss blue. The blue dye mixed with moss killer allows applicators to see where they’ve sprayed, leaving the forest floor with a temporary otherworldly appearance.
The effort is promising, though, as OANRP staff have observed native plants like makole (Nertera granadensis) and kanawao (Broussaisia arguta) colonizing treated areas once the Sphagnum moss has died off.
Common rush was another target for the group. Volunteers hauled out more than 10 bags of the weed, which thrives in sunny, wet areas like Kaala.
Oahu Natural Resources Program
The OANRP offers public volunteer trips in Oahu’s native forests throughout the year as part of an effort to protect more than 60 endangered species. For more details, call (808) 656-7741.