New non-native specie found in Kona

Keep your eyes open for this relatively new shrub pioneering bulldozed property or areas recently sprayed with herbicide in upland Kona. Phenax is closely related to mamake and easy to pull when young but grows rapidly up to 15 feet in height. (Voltaire Moise/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Phenax hirtus is a tropical shrub from Central America that will grow rapidly to 15 feet and can spread quickly. At first glance, it looks like a small-leafed version of mamake, to which it is related. It is a pioneer specie that quickly invades areas sprayed with herbicide, like along the forest reserve trails and in areas along roadsides where soil is exposed. Since Phenax is closely related to mamake, it may have some medicinal value.