The state is reminding Merrie Monarch travelers attending the festival in Hilo next week that the transport of ohia lehua, popular in lei and hairpieces, is not allowed from Hawaii island due to a serious plant disease.
Ohia plants and plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, untreated wood, logs, mulch green waste and frass (sawdust from boring insects) as well as any soil from Hawaii island is prohibited without a permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
Rapid Ohia Death, a rapidly-spreading fungus which causes the crowns of mature ohia trees to turn yellow, then brown and die within days to weeks, has wiped out thousands of acres on Hawaii island. It was first detected in 2010 in Puna, and currently affects an estimated 135,000 acres around Hawaii island. So far, it has not been found on other islands.
“We ask that everyone be mindful of the quarantine restrictions,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, in a news release. “So far, we have been able to prevent the spread of the disease to other islands and continued vigilance is essential.”
Spores from the disease may also be carried in soil and by harvesting tools, vehicles, shoes and clothing to uninfected areas.
The state agriculture department will be sending crews of inspectors to the Hilo and Kona airports towards the end of the Merrie Monarch Festival, which runs from April 1 to 7. Special inspection stations will also be set up from April 6 to 9, where passengers may turn in any ohia material before boarding flights. Passengers can also turn in ohia material to the plant quarantine offices in Kona and Hilo for proper disposal.
The Hawaii Board of Agriculture issued an emergency quarantine in August 2015 to stop the spread of the plant fungus from Hawaii island to other islands.
Violations of the quarantine can result in a misdemeanor charge and fines of $100 to $10,000 for the first offense. More information is available at this link.