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Agricultural Officials Mulling Ban Of Hardy Kiwi In Massachusetts

WESTBORO (CBS) — To kiwi or not to kiwi? That is the question.

The state is considering putting a fruit known as the hardy kiwi–not the usual fuzzy fruit you’re probably used to–on the state’s prohibited plants list.

The hardy kiwi is so hardy that it has laid to waste sections of woods in Lennox and Pittsfield, and other areas in the Berkshires. Other states, like New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont are also dealing with the plant.

“What it does is it climbs up mature trees, and then in the winter as it freezes, it pulls them down,” Jane Wynn of the Berkshires Environmental Action Team told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens Tuesday. “And then the next year, it springs out and goes up the next set of mature trees, creating an amphitheater of hardy kiwi.”

At the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters in Westboro Tuesday, officials held testimony as they decided whether or not to ban the fruit–making it illegal to plant or sell it in Massachusetts.

“It is taking over parts of our forests,” said Wynn. “We’ve got places where the kiwi is covering acres and acres, and there is nothing else growing in there other than hardy kiwi. It blocks out all the light so there is no understory, and it’s pulling down all these trees. It’s absolutely devastating.”

But Jonathan Bates, a Holyoke biologist, testified, saying that the hardy kiwi is a nutritional food source. Some who are pro-kiwi said they are the perfect superfood.

“Many other stakeholders need to be involved in this decision beyond today’s hearing, like farmers, consumers, university professionals,” Bates said. “It would have been great to bring my son here today, he’s four, he loves kiwi berry.”

Bates had a suggestion for how to deal with the fruit–a surcharge for each plant sold, with money going to managing historic kiwi populations. He said the issues they’re dealing with are with management of the plant populations, not the plant itself.

“Couldn’t the Lennox example be a learning opportunity for future kiwi management, rather than the epicenter of the fruit’s complete prohibition in New England?” he asked officials.

Agricultural officials will digest all of these fruit facts and rule on prohibiting the hardy kiwi at later date.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

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