Gov. David Ige signed a powerful new amendment to the Hawai‘i Administrative Rules that restricts imports of any plants in the myrtle family (Myrtaceae). Ten years in the making, the rule will protect forests from new diseases, particularly myrtle rust (Austropuccina psidii). After accidental introduction to Hawai‘i 15 years ago, the rust went statewide and wiped out most rose apple trees.
According to Extension agent J.B. Friday, while that strain of rust had limited impact on ‘ōhi‘a, tests in Brazil showed the existence of other strains that could decimate ‘ōhi‘a. Myrtles are imported from Mainland nurseries for floral arrangements and often are contaminated with the rust.
“This is great news for our forests,” he says. “Introduction of a new strain of myrtle rust could really wipe out a lot of our ‘ōhi‘a forests, and there wouldn't be anything we could do. The only real way of protecting the forest is to make sure we don't import the disease in the first place.”
If that line of supply is curtailed, Hawai‘i nursery growers may also have an opportunity to produce their own greenery.
Read the HDOA’s full announcement.