Fresh cut pine trees from the mainland are a popular choice for holidays, even here in tropical Hawai’i. According to Hawaii-grown Christmas Tree Market Potential, a study funded by the DLNR and the US Forest Service, “In 2012 it was estimated that the total number of Christmas Trees sold in Hawai‘i was in excess of 190,000. Of these, the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture estimates that 183,000 Christmas trees (96%) were imported.”
But Christmas trees imported from the mainland could harbor Hawaii’s next invasive pest! In past years, snakes, wasps, and slugs have been found in shipments of Christmas trees and other foliage used for holiday decorating. A 2015 USDA study found that importation of live plant materials is the highest risk pathway for introduction of new pests and diseases to Hawaii. Pests that have come in recently, such as little fire ant, coqui frog, semi-slug, and more, were all introduced accidentally on imported plant material.
Dr. Sam Ohu Gon of The Nature Conservancy explains in the video below:
There are sustainable alternatives here on the Big Island!
1. Buy an island-grown tree from a local tree farm. (Know of additional growers? Please contact us so we can add them to the list!)
32 Piha-Kahuku Road, Ninole
Hooluana Tree Farm
N. Peck Rd., Mt. View
Leyland Cypress Trees
Kailua-Kona (near Donkey Mill Art Center)
(808) 324-4609, call for directions
The Hawaii Forest Institute is working on a demonstration project to test species of non-invasive trees that fit our “holiday expectations,” yet can grow happily right here on Hawaii Island. Check out their work!
2. Call your local nursery and ask if they are selling trees. Norfolk, Cook, and Monterey pines are all grown on the island, and can even be purchased in a pot to be used year after year before finally planting in your backyard. Araucarias, a “tropical” pine, grow well below 4000 feet. Cypress are a great substitute for pines, and won’t drop tons of needles! There are many options available that won’t contribute to the importation of live plants.
3. Purchase an artificial tree that can be used year after year, saving money for you while keeping the islands safe from invading pests. Learn more about the benefits of artificial trees.
Let’s support local businesses and keep the holidays pest-free for Hawai’i!