Native Plant Initiative


Formed in 2006, the LICH foundation has provided educational, professional development and advocacy for LICH and has been instrumental in the development of industry advancements. In just five years, the LICH Foundation has tackled three core sustainability initiatives; LICH Invasive Species List & Guidelines, LICH Irrigation Water Conservation and now the LICH Native Plant Initiative.

The Landscape Industry Council of Hawaii Native Plant Initiative is an innovative 10 year strategy that seeks to reverse the decline of native plants by promoting the use of native plants in their original range of distribution and within 30 years to increase native plants in the built environment from less than 1% today to 30%.

The LICH NPI strategy includes four core goals:

❖      Increase native plant selection and supply

❖      Foster environmental responsibility

❖      Create greater awareness

❖      Nurture future green stewards

Each goal includes measurable objectives and desired outcomes. The four goals include a total of 69 objectives. The objectives include such items as developing popular native propagules, publishing comprehensive technical resources, establishing visible native exhibition gardens, develop a native plant ‘Buy Local’ cooperative retail program, and nurture tomorrow’s green stewards.

The LICH Native Plant Initiative (NPI) perfectly compliments existing conservation efforts occurring in Hawaii’s forests by addressing the source of invasive plants which is in the built environment. The built environment currently acts as land that invasive species pass through to get to the natural areas but could be a buffer. To some extent, native plants has been used by the landscape industry but when you think about it only a select group of ‘bulletproof’ native plants is utilized; ten or less. The LICH NPI will expand the selection, knowledge and guidelines for propagation and proper usage.  The LICH NPI first ten years is projected to cost $52 million.

The get started we brought together a diverse set of leading professionals

One of the many expedition. (left to right: Amy Tsuneyoshi, David Orr, Josie Hoh, Joel, Lau, Andy Williams, Steven Connolly, Chris Dacus, Leland Miyano, and Jeff Preble)

One of the many expedition. (left to right: Amy Tsuneyoshi, David Orr, Josie Hoh, Joel, Lau, Andy Williams, Steven Connolly, Chris Dacus, Leland Miyano, and Jeff Preble)

from the landscape industry, conservation, forestry, agricultural, government, education and science. This group is a core of individuals that have unique expertise and a strong commitment. Team members include Rick Barboza of Hui Ku Maoli Ola, Heidi Bornhorst, Susan Ching of DLNR, Carl Evensen of UH CTAHR, Josie Hoh of Waimea Valley Hi’ipaka, Liz Huppman, Nellie Sugii  & Steven Connolly of Lyon Arboretum, Josh Sand of the C&C Honolulu Botanical Gardens, Joel Lau, Ken Leonhardt of UH CTAHR, Richard Quinn of Helber Hastert & Fee, Leland Miyano, Garrett Webb of Hawaiian Islands Palm Society, Amy Tsuneyoshi of HBWS, Jeff Preble of Hawaiian Botanical Society, Jane Beachy of U.S. Army Environmental, Adam Williams of Koolau Mountain Watershed Partnership and Chris Dacus of LICH.

Not waiting for funding; the task force began with a pilot project for one of the 69 objectives – developing popular native propagules; to show future funders the breadth of expertise, dedication, innovation and collaboration of the LICH NPI. The task force developed a collection strategy and chose Oahu’s iconic Pritchardia species – Pritchardia martii, P. kahukuensis, and P. Bakeri. Two of Oahu’s Pritchardia, P. Lowyerana and P. Kaalae require additional measures due to their extremely low numbers in the wild and efforts for these two will be explored at a later date. The low recruitment of all Pritchardia in Hawaii is due to rats eating pretty much all the mature seeds. Very few new recruitments are found for any Pritchardia.

With the collection strategy developed the LICH NPI met and developed an outline for a comprehensive approach for the use of native plants in their original range of distribution utilizing Oahu’s Pritchardia species as the pilot. The strategy includes protecting wild plant populations (in situ) by developing built environment plantings (ex situ) of known lineage that are well curated in an appropriate locations to ensure genetic biodiversity. It also includes promoting needed research and guidance for plantings in the built environment.

The following components are included in the pilot project:

  • Research Compilation
  • Research
  • Collection Techniques & Curation
  • Protection of In Situ populations
  • Propagation
  • Industry Standards & Guidelines
  • Distribution
  • Ex Situ sites on publicly accessible lands
  • Education and Advocacy
  • Ex Situ plantings maintenance

With the collection and pilot strategy developed, the task force shared its vision with DLNR and after numerous meetings the LICH NPI obtained a collection permit. For the past 3 months, a dedicated, experienced and fun group of collectors have been pioneering the collection effort. Each has been carefully planned and has been a true team effort and a real adventure into beautiful wild portions of the Ko’olaus. Every trip the collection team improves.

Rick Barboza and Leland Miyano at a Pritchardia martii.

Rick Barboza and Leland Miyano at a Pritchardia martii.

After each expedition, the collection is curated with the LICH NPI database modelled after the Hawaii Rare Plant Restoration Group Rare Plant Forms. The collection progress has been slow but encouraging with the effort on schedule to meet it’s collection goals of seeds for propagation and tissue samples for research purposes.

Concurrently, the task force has been working to identify and fund the research needed to support the LICH NPI. Extensive research is needed to understand if and which native Pritchardia cross pollinate to prevent cross pollination and homogenization of distinct Pritchardia. Research is also needed on the flower biology and propagation techniques. While the research is a long term project the outcomes are critical.

Presentations on the LICH NPI will be made to the broader conservation and landscape industry this summer and fall. A forum with discussion will be held at the Hawaii Conservation Conference 2011 and a similar presentation for the LICH 2011 Annual Conference.

Work has also begun on developing industry Pritchardia standards and guidelines. These will include concise guidelines for identification, propagation, biodiversity, original range of distribution. proper use of each species, landscape maintenance, and curation.

The immediate goal after collection is completed is to propagate 500 one gallon potted O’ahu Pritchardia for distribution in the Summer of 2012. Distribution will be prioritized to botanical gardens for preservation and education purposes and to publicly accessible sites (ex situ) for perpetual seed collection which should help to minimize illegal wild collecting. After these two, it will be provided to conservation for out plantings (in situ) and also to the landscape industry as seed stock. For the first time, certifiable one gallon Pritchardia stock will be available. Publicly accessible sites will be growing an appropriate diverse genetic set of Pritchardia found in that locale. And you will be able to visit these sites in approximately 5 years and collect seed for your nursery seed stock.

There will be a  distribution to industry at a LICH NPI Pritchardia workshop which will include presentations on the Pritchardia standards & guidelines and nursery curation. Participants will receive select certified Pritchardia. An announcement will be included in a future issue.

The LICH NPI and its partners will continue to maintain and monitor these publicly accessible planting sites (ex situ). Management might include rat population control to ensure to maximize seed collection.

This initiative has been inspiring, collaborative, innovative and inclusive. It demonstrates how allied professionals and a diverse set of organizations can come together for a common cause and achieve something that has eluded us to date. It’s LICH Foundation and Hawai’i at its best.

We encourage everyone who’s interested to learn more at the upcoming presentations at the 2011 Hawaii Conservation Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center and a similar presentation for the LICH Annual Conference at the Neal Blaisdell on October 6th. Get excited, certifiable Pritchardia are coming soon!


Chris Dacus is a Landscape Architect and Arborist for the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation and the President of LICH.

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About the author  ⁄ Chauncey Hirose-Hulbert

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