On Saturday, August 26, volunteers from Hawaiian Ocean View Estates, Hawaii Community College, and staff from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Big Island Invasive Species Committee teamed together to remove 454 fountain grass plants from roadsides in Ocean View, Ka`u.
Ocean View Community Association has sponsored five such service days, systematically removing 7,424 fountain grass plants from the entire subdivision’s 156 miles of roads. “The purpose of the service days is to let residents know about the increased fire threat posed by fountain grass and to demonstrate safe and effective ways to remove it,” said David Benitez, Research Project Specialist at Hawai‘I Volcanoes.
“Volunteers found the work easier than they thought, it was a good opportunity to meet people, and they felt like they were contributing to the community,” added Benitez.
“Control work appears to be effective at reducing numbers of plants,” said Benitez. Last August, volunteers removed 2,535 plants from roadsides in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. Area resident Megan Lamson said she was “impressed by the work so far” and noted a smaller number of plants as compared to previous trips.
However, fountain grass populations still remain in residential lots throughout Ocean View and on adjacent lava flows. If left unchecked, the grass will continue to spread and result in increased fuel loads and fire hazards. “Fortunately, in most areas, populations are small and control efforts to remove or contain the spread of the grass are still feasible,” said Benitez.
Native to Northern Africa, fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) was first brought to Hawai`i in the early 1900's where it was used extensively in landscaping. The grass is a highly aggressive, fire-promoting species. It accumulates large volumes of dead biomass and burns rapidly with high intensity.
Fountain grass further intensifies fire potential because it is one of the few invasive species that can colonize young lava flows. As a result, wildfires spread unchecked into surrounding subdivisions, pastures, and forests.
“Most plants can be manually uprooted,” said Benitez. For deep-rooted individuals, 10% Roundup can be applied directly on the plant using a hand sprayer bottle. For both methods, seed heads are collected in bags and disposed of to prevent the spread of individuals into new areas.
Another service day is planned for early December. Residents of Ocean View who want to remove fountain grass on their property can contact David Benitez, 985-6085, for technical assistance on how best to remove this weed.