State officials and police are investigating the vandalism of a greenhouse at Waimano over the weekend that resulted in damage and destruction to rare and native plants that were painstakingly being grown there.
State botanist Susan Ching and her team found a gaping hole in the greenhouse, along with broken containers, plants snapped in half and dirt strewn all over the floor.
“It’s unfathomable to me that we’re trying to rescue these plants and save them for future generations,” said Ching in a news release. “And then to see them just maliciously hurt…I don’t think people understand what the value is here. They just threw plants all around and left the water running.”
The greenhouse belongs to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and officials believe the incident occurred Friday night.
All of the plants in the greenhouse are culturally and ecologically invaluable, according to botanists, and due to the incident, at least four species of extremely rare Native Hawaiian plants are now in further peril.
One of them — the opuhea — is found only in the Waianae Mountains on Oahu, where only one single, wild individual of this species remains, according to Ching. It is hard to germinate, and there’s not much seed left.
“I would just hope people could be better educated about what we are growing here,” said Ching in the news release. “These are not just run-of-the-mill plants that you find at a commercial nursery. They’re endangered and a lot of them are irreplaceable.”
The state’s Plant Extinction and Protection Program has a small grant to grow and put a certain number of nursery-grown plants into the forest within a certain period of years. Ching and her team have spent their lives propagating, planting, and protecting Hawaii’s rarest plants,
Botanists believe that the vandalism occurred on Friday because plants lying on the ground were already bending toward the light.
“It looks like this too, was done in anger,” she said, “without any feeling or respect, based on how many of the plants were snapped in two.”
She added, “I hope Oahu people are as concerned for this Oahu endemic species program. This is directly our responsibility and some of these plants may not recover from this terrible destruction. Once the sole survivor of a family disappears, the species becomes extinct and is gone forever.”
The Honolulu police and DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement have opened investigations, and a report will also be filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since many of the plants are federally protected.
Anyone with information about the vandalism can anonymously report it to 634-DLNR or via the free DLNRTip app.