An abhorrent, semi-woody, persistent vine that creeps along the ground and twines over structures and trees; the whole plant emits a malodorous scent. Native to Eastern Asia, Paederia foetida, commonly known as stink maile, was introduced to Hawai’i from Japan sometime before 1854. Considered an ornamental vine in some places, it is unknown if the Hawaiian introduction was accidental or intentional. Stink maile was introduced to Florida as a fiber crop in 1897. Today, stink maile is considered invasive in Florida, other parts of SE USA, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, and in other tropical island ecosystems.
Stink maile has naturalized and is locally common in Maui, Hawai’i Island, O’ahu, and Kaua’i. It is most prolific in the Hilo and Puna areas of Hawai’i Island, where the vine often produces fruit and seeds. Infestations in the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park likely occurred within contaminated road fill.
P. foetida slinks along the ground, then twines up and smothers any host it may find. The blanket of vines envelopes the host tree, slowly stealing light and nutrients while weighing it down and killing it. The result is a standing dead tree with a fire ladder of vines, a severe fire hazard.
This heinous vine tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and elevations ranging from sea level to more than 3,000 feet, furthermore, salt spray and shade to not impede its growth. Growing fast to reproductive maturity and spread by fruit-eating birds, stink maile infestations are likely to get worse.
Description and Dispersal:
- Simple, green leaves are arranged opposite and are narrow; 5 inches long by less than 2 inches wide
- Flowers develop in clusters, the terminal bud flowering first, followed by the buds on the lateral stems.
- Flowers are funnel-shaped with lobes of 4 to 5, are white with purple to red within
- Fruit is light-brown to reddish-brown in color, glossy with a persistent calyx, containing 1 to 2 seeds.
- Seeds are bird dispersed, propagules are dispersed unintentionally as yard waste