By Nina Wu
Native plants, not spruce seeds, will be planted in Honolulu —and The Lorax would be pleased.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources stepped in to stop bookmarks embedded with Engelmann spruce seeds from being given away at IHOP restaurants here.
IHOP in Hawaii is voluntarily discontinuing the giveaway of the bookmarks, originally offered as a promotion for "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" movie, which hit theaters on March 2. The bookmarks were being given away to children ages 3 to 12, along with a movie-inspired menu featuring The Lorax's Breakfast, Pipsqueak's Breakfast or Mac ' N' Cheese & Truffula Trees.
Spruce trees are not native to Hawaii and while they may not pose a high risk to native plants here, other species of spruce trees have been observed to be invasive in parts of the Pacific, replacing native plants and the animals that depend on them.
DLNR and the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species partnered with native plant nurseries (including Hui Ku Maoli Ola) to create an exchange program for IHOP customers who may have already received one of the seed bookmarks. Customers can exchange their bookmark for a free native Hawaiian plant.
“Thanks to the quick action of DLNR and others involved, we have turned a potentially negative situation into a positive one by expanding on the movie’s underlying message of being better stewards of our natural environment,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie. “The collaborative effort to discontinue the distribution of spruce seeds engages those who may not be aware of the importance of the ‘right plant in the right place.’ Our forests will thrive with more native flora and that benefits all of us.”
Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax," first published in 1971, is a fictional story of a pristine environment where truffula trees provide food, clean air and habitat for a community of unique animals. But they are overharvested to the point of extinction, and the Lorax tries to point out the environmental importance of the trees.
"Updating the message of 'The Lorax' to include the value of native species is key for the next generation of conservationists to understand the problems facing our environment," said Joshua Atwood, coordinator for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council. "An important part of 'The Lorax' story is that the truffula trees grow nowhere else, and the Lorax is there to protect that limited resource."
On Oahu, Hui Ku Maoli Ola is offering native plants in exchange for the Lorax seeded bookmarks. See the full list below for Maui and Hawaii Island. The exchange is free until the end of April.
Hui Ku Maoli Ola Native Plant Nursery
46-403 Haiku Rd, Kane‘ohe, HI, 96744
Hours: Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. – noon, closed Sunday
Contact: (808) 235-6165
Native Nursery and Ho‘olawa Farms, exchange facilitated by the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC)
Contact MISC at (808) 573-6472
Big Island Plants or Ku ‘Oh‘ia Laka, exchange facilitated by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC)
Contact: BIISC at (808) 933-3345