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Invasive and Toxic 'Devil Weed' Found on Hawaiʻi Island

Franz Xaver
Wikimedia Commons
Chromolaena odorata in Cambodia

HILO, Hawaiʻi — An invasive plant species toxic to cattle and highly flammable has been found on Hawaiʻi Island.

Chromolaena odorata, also known as “devil weed,” was found on the east side of the Big Island earlier this year.

First detected in the state on Oʻahu in 2011, officials worry that the invasive plant could harm the cattle industry and fuel future wildfires on the Big Island.

Devil weed has small, sticky seeds that can be transported easily, said Franny Brewer, spokesperson for the Big Island Invasive Species Committee.

“Right now, we’re actually lucky that it’s just on the east side of the island,” Brewer said. “It usually likes the warmer and drier areas, so if it gets over (to the west side) that could be very bad.”

An additional concern for cattle ranchers is an invasive species of insect that is also invading local pastures. Brewer said the two-lined spittlebug is attracted to nutrient-rich grass that cows graze on and can devour a pasture, leaving the land open to the introduction of devil weed.

The plant's leaves contain a substance that is highly flammable, Brewer said, which could increase the threat of increasingly common wildfires in Hawaiʻi.

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