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weed with small three corner hat shaped seed pods

Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

Common Name
Spotted Touch-me-not (Jewelweed, Spotted Jewelweed, Wild Balsam)

Scientific Name
Impatiens capensis Meerb.

Plant Family
Touch-me-not (Balsaminaceae)

Garden Location
Woodland

Prime Season
Late Summer to early Autumn

Spotted touch-me-not is an erect native annual. Stems are succulent, somewhat translucent, 2 to 5 feet high, easily broken, branching occasionally.

Leaves are thin, egg shape with coarse broad teeth and slender long stalks. In dry conditions leaves can become thicker. Submerged in water, they take on a silvery sheen.

The inflorescence is a cluster of up to 3 flowers that rises from the leaf axils.

Flowers: Spotted touch-me-not has two types of flowers – chasmogamous, which open for fertilization and cleistogamous, which do not open and self-fertilize. The chasmogamous are 1 inch long flowers hanging on a long drooping freely moving stalk (pedicel) and the flowers have a curved nectar spur at the back end. The amount of curve is quite variable but can be as much as 270 degrees. The flower stalk has a small linear bract in mid-stalk. The flower stalk is attached just above the mouth of the corolla where one petal and three sepals come together. Flowers have 5 petals that seemed fused together in places, forming the upper lip projecting out like a hood, two laterals and two larger lower lips which flare outward. There are 3 sepals, with the larger forming the cone of the back of the flower and the nectar spur; the other two are a much lighter color and seen on the top of the corolla behind the upper lip. Five stamens with yellowish anthers are united around the single pistil and the assemblage is tucked up under the upper lip. The petals are spotted with deeper colored reddish spots as is the large sepal occassionally.

These flowers are sexually dichogamous, that is, with the male and female parts maturing at different times, thus avoiding something nature does not like – self pollination. The male parts are ready first and the anthers are ready for pollen release for only a twenty-four hour period, then the anthers are dropped and the female stigma is exposed. The receptive phase then follows when the stigma can receive pollen from a flower that still has pollen for release but that phase is very short – average of four hours according to experiments that have run.

The cleistogamous flowers are found singly in the lower leaf axils and require only three weeks to mature. These are usually produced later in the season. These are only 1 to 2 mm in diameter. These flowers produce seed when, through stress or other climatic conditions, the regular open flowers are few or cannot be pollinated. Also, since the type of pollinator required for the open flowers, due to its deep nectar sac, is quite limited, and also since the plant is an annual, cleistogamous seed production insures that the species will re-seed.

The fruit is a pod that when mature will explode and expel the seed some distance – hence the common name of "touch-me-not" (see Thoreau’s notes at bottom of page). Seeds are longer than wide, brown with lighter ridges and usually number 3 to 5 per pod. The cleistogamous flowers also form seed pods but contain fewer seeds. Hummingbirds and large bees are the prime pollinators. By inserting a hummingbird’s long tongue into the curved nectar spur, the spur is pushed away with each lick of the tongue and then the spring-like action of the pedicel brings the flower back toward the bird causing the anthers or the stigma to contact the back portion of the birds bill, thus transferring pollen. [see Mobility of Impatiens capensis flowers: Effect on pollen deposition and hummingbird foraging by Hurlbert, Hosoi, Temeles and Ewald, Spring 1996 published in Oecologia.] For details on the mechanism that releases the seeds explosively, see this article (pdf). Another article that covers in detail the research on the open and closed flower types in this species is Jewelweed’s Sexual Skills, by Donald M. Walker, University of Wisconsin, in Natural History, Vol. 91 #5. and also papers in Evolution, Vols. 34, 38, 41.

Habitat: Touch-me-nots are plants of moist places with full to partial sunlight. They are true annuals. Because of this their abundance varies from year to year – and they are found only in moist areas of the Garden during drier years otherwise they adapt to drier soils when there is sufficient rainfall. They are somewhat drought tolerant with plant size and flower production affected.

Names: The genus name impatiens is Latin for "impatient" referring to the characteristic of the seed to explode from the dry seed head. The species capensis, means ‘of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa’, but this was a mistake by the plant author who was under the impression the species was native there. You will see this plant listed with an older, now replaced, species name -I. biflora. The author name for the plant classification – ‘Meerb.’ is for Nicolaas Meerburgh (1734-1814) Dutch botanist who was director of the botanical garden in Leiden and most known for his 5 volumes of Portraits of Rare Plants (Afbeeldingen van zeldzame gewassen.) The alternate old common name “Wild Balsam” is derived from the Latin family name for the species, BALSAMINACEAE.

Comparisons: Spotted Touch-me-not has orange flowers with red-brown spots. The spur on the back bends underneath and forward and upward and is usually parallel to the flower but not at a right angle downward like the Pale Touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida), which is also slightly larger, however, there are variations depending on the maturity of the flower.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden’s planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Above: 1st photo – The two pale green small sepals are visible on top of the angled upper lip of the corolla. Note also, the small bract halfway back on the flower stalk. 2nd photo – The third sepal is the same color as the corolla petals and forms the large tube and nectar spur at the back of the flower. Note the line of separation of this sepal from the corolla petals in front of it.

Below: 1st photo – A typical egg shaped leaf with broad teeth. 2nd photo – The separation of the two lower corolla petals is clearly seen in this bottom view, as it is in the large photo at the bottom of the page.

Below: The five stamens with yellow anthers are united around the single pistil and tucked up under the upper lip. Anthers shed pollen first, then wither and the stigma of the pistil becomes receptive to pollen from another flower. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.

Below – Touch-me-not seed dispersion: 1st photo is the seed capsule approaching maturity. When the capsule is ready, touching it with slight pressure will cause the plant material inside to suddenly form a twisted coil (2nd photo) and disperse the seeds to quite a distance.

Below: Touch-me-not can occupy extensive areas in a year with adequate moisture as this photo indicates. This is a section of the Eloise Butler wetland on Aug. 27, 2009.

Notes:

Notes: Spotted Touch-me-not is indigenous to the Garden area. Eloise Butler catalogued it on May 25, 1907. The plant is widely distributed in the United States and Canada, absent only in the SW and the far north. It is in most counties of Minnesota except for a few in the drier SW corner. It is native to the state and can become invasive. For a story about its invasive nature in the Garden during Eloise Butler and Martha Crone’s tenures as curator read this section from the History of the Wetland.

The only two species of Impatiens native to Minnesota are I. capensis and I. pallida, Pale Touch-me-not.

Eloise Butler wrote of Jewelweed: "Every inch of space on low, moist soil not held firmly by tufted meadow grasses and sedges is occupied by the Wild Balsam. [Note: “Wild Balsam” is derived from the Latin family name for the species, BALSAMINACEAE and in English as the Touch-me-not Family.] The smooth, glossy stem has a translucent appearance, and its joints are swollen, affording another proof, of course, that rheumatism is induced by dampness! The leaves are thin and delicate. When dipped in water, their under-surfaces appear to gleam like quicksilver, an appearance due to tiny hairs that catch the water and enmesh air bubbles. The hairs keep the pores that are abundant on the under side of the leaves from being clogged with water. Some water beetles show the same phenomenon when they dive; but, in their case, the air bubbles supply them with the requisite oxygen during the period of immersion. Little girls are familiar with the plant as Jewelweed. By means of the curved nectar spur, they hook the flowers in their ears and are fine ladies, for the nonce, with gold ear-drops. The most common species of Balsam has flowers usually spotted with brown, of varying shades of orange and yellow, and sometimes pink or white. This is called Impatiens biflora. I pallida has larger, pale yellow, often unspotted flowers, with stouter spurs. The term Impatiens refers to the nature of the seed-vessel, the origin of another common name, touch-me-not. If you gently press the plump, ripe seed-pod between your thumb and forefinger you will be startled by its breaking up into writhing, worm-like pieces, and by the seeds snapping out several feet into space. " Published Aug 20, 1911, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune.

Lore and Uses: The Ojibwa used the thick juice that comes from a stem, when broken, to apply to skin rashes and rubbed it on the head for a headache. The application to relieve skin irritations was also known in Britain.

Toxicity: The juice of Impatiens capensis is somewhat toxic to animals. The sac in the spur of the flower contains a liquid. Modern testing has shown that the juice contains chemicals that are considered fungicides and therefore would be slightly poisonous to grazing animals.

Thoreau wrote in his journals: "Touch-me-not seed vessels, as all know, go off like pistols on the slightest touch, and so suddenly and energetically that they always startle you, though you are expecting it. They shoot their seed like shot. They even explode in my hat as I am bringing them home."

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.

New Hampshire Garden Solutions

Our most beautiful time of year is almost here, when there are scenes like this just about everywhere you look. It’s much like living inside an impressionistic painting for a while until the hillside forests break into the full, blazing glory of fall.

Our late summer asters keep coming and the tall white aster (Doellingeria umbellata) is one of the most common and easily seen due to its 3-4-foot height. Large, mostly flat-topped flower heads give it another common name of flat-topped aster. They sway in the breeze and are usually covered with bees.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) seemed a little late this year but when I say that about a flower, I often find that it’s me who is expecting to see them earlier than they want to appear. In fact if I look back year to year on this blog, I find that most flowers are fairly consistent in their bloom times and jewelweed is no exception. It usually blooms in early to mid-August so it’s right on schedule.

Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies pollinate these little flowers. You need a long tongue to reach all the way into that curved nectar spur but I watched an ant trying to come up with a way to get at that sweetness one day. Jewelweed typically blossoms right up until a frost but as day length shortens the plants will produce smaller, closed flowers with no petals and no nectar. They self-pollinate and their sole purpose is to produce plenty of seeds.

I think most people who read this blog know this, but for those who don’t; these are the jewels that give jewelweed its name. Raindrops sparkle like diamonds on the wax coated leaf surfaces. When you come upon a large colony of them after a rain it can be a very beautiful thing.

Since I’m seeing seedpods forming on our beautiful little eastern forked blue curl plants (Trichostema dichotomum) I’m going to say that it’s time we said goodbye, even though in a good year they might bloom through September. If so, it’ll be a bonus. When a heavy enough insect lands on that spotted lower lip those curved anthers, each carrying several white pollen grains smaller than grains of salt, will dip down and dust the insect with pollen. It’s another miraculous event in a world filled with them.

I found some low growing, potato like plants with lots of leaves and just a few small white flowers. It was obvious by the flowers that it is in the nightshade family but that’s about as far as I got. I think it might be the European invasive black nightshade (Solanum nigrum.) Solanum nigrum has been recorded in deposits of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras of ancient Britain, so it has been around for a very long time. It was used medicinally as mankind grew and learned and was even mentioned by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD.

Do you see that tiny white flower to the right of center in this shot? All those leaves and one tiny flower? Clearly this plant doesn’t seem that interested in seed production.

But it does produce fruit, and these black berries are what leads me to believe it is black nightshade. There is an American black nightshade (Solanum americanum) but it is native only to the southwest of the country so I doubt this is that plant. There is another that I’ve read about called Solanum L. section Solanum which is nearly hairless but otherwise has the same features. And then there is still another plant called eastern black nightshade (Solanum ptycanthum) but there seems to be much confusion over which plant is which. Though they have been used medicinally for thousands of years Solanum berries contain powerful alkaloids. They are considered toxic and have killed children who have eaten the unripe green berries. A few people do eat the ripe black berries but I think I’ll pass.

NOTE: A helpful reader has identified this plant as Eastern black nightshade (Solanum emulans,) so I can stop wondering about that. Thanks Sara!

Many of the plants in this post are not native and are considered invasive in many instances but only a few like purple loosestrife are truly pests in this region. In a large percentage of cases these plants were brought here because their flowers were beautiful and I can see that beauty, so I can understand the why of it. Many plants were also used medicinally and people went to a lot of trouble to get them here. Imagine bringing plants over on a wooden ship where extra deck space was nearly nonexistent. You’d have to present a very convincing argument I think, though in the case of tansy (Tanacetum vulgare,) which is pictured above and which has a long history of being used as an insect repellant, the ship’s captain might have been a little more understanding. Recent research shows that tansy repels ticks, moths, and other insects, so it might have gotten a free pass on deck space. And of course it might have arrived in the form of seed.

Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is a plant I don’t have any memories attached to because before a year or so ago I never saw it growing here. Then all of the sudden there it was, and now I see it regularly. It’s a pretty little plant that Native Americans used to treat sores and rheumatism, and they also smoked it to treat colds, and as a tobacco substitute. What I see far more of is sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium,) and they used that plant in much the same way. The name everlasting comes from the way the dried flowers will last for years in a dry vase. I keep forgetting to check these flowers for scent but the flowers of sweet everlasting smell like maple syrup.

Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) is another “invasive” that most pay little attention to in this part of the world, but I’ve heard that it can be a real pest in pastures. It was introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental and, as the old familiar story goes, has escaped and is now considered a noxious weed. A single hawkweed flower head can produce between 12 and 50 tiny black seeds, so when you do the math, it is obvious that these plants are here to stay. They are said to be much harder to control than dandelions. Though it’s easy to find many reasons to hate such a plant, we don’t have many orange wildflowers in this part of the country and I enjoy seeing it.

False dandelions (Hypochoeris radicata) are another imported plant but unlike orange hawkweed I see these plants almost everywhere I go at this time of year. If you look at the yellow flowers on tall wiry stems without paying attention to the foliage this plant might look like yellow hawkweed, but its leaves are very different and look more like narrow dandelion leaves. Yellow hawkweed and false dandelion also bloom at different times, which helps when trying to identify them.

Both dandelions and false dandelions have a rosette of edible leaves and a central taproot. The flower stems of false dandelion are solid, tall and wiry while those of true dandelions are hollow and much shorter. Another name for this plant is cats ear.

Native virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) drapes itself over shrubs so it can get all of the sunshine that it wants. I’ve also seen it climbing into trees. It is also called old man’s beard and devils’ darning needles. Both names refer to the twisted, feathery seed heads. An extract made from the plant is hallucinogenic (and dangerous) and was used by Native Americans to induce dreams. Mixed with other plants like milkweed, it was also used medicinally. It is a toxic plant that can cause internal bleeding so you have to know what you’re doing to use it.

Another name for virgin’s bower is traveler’s joy and I can say that it is that. Its small white but pretty flowers are another reminder that fall is near. Clusters of them often cover the entire plant. Many bird species eat the seeds and goldfinches line their nests with the soft, feathery seed coverings.

Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is another white flowered vine that drapes itself over the tops of shrubs to get more sunlight. It climbs using tendrils like a grape vine, unlike virgins’ bower which climbs by curling its leaf stems (petioles) around whatever it is climbing. Both strategies work well and each vine gets plenty of sunlight. You’ll note that the leaves on wild cucumber are two or three times as big as those on virgin’s bower though, and that’s because this vine prefers partial shade over full sunlight.

The flower spikes (Racemes) on wild cucumber grow to 6 inches or more all along the main stem. The greenish white, star shaped male flowers of wild cucumber have 6 petals that are twisted slightly. The female flowers are yellowish green and not at all showy. They grow at the base of the male flower stems. There is usually only one female flower for every 5 or 6 male flowers, which is why there are so few fruits seen on each vine.

If you’d like a native shrub that will attract pollinating insects clethra (Clethra alnifolia) is a very good choice. It’s also called summersweet because of its sweet fragrance. If you have low spots in your yard that get wet occasionally, this is a good shrub to plant in them because it likes moist soil and grows naturally along stream banks and in swampy ground. Insects love it and this one was covered with just about every one that I could name.

Each long upright clethra flower head is packed with small white flowers. Small yes, but also very fragrant; it has the name summersweet for a reason. Some older nurserymen might also know it as sweet pepperbush; whoever gave it that name thought its fruits resembled pepper corns.

The flowers of blue vervain (Verbena hastata) bloom from the bottom of the flower head up, so you can tell how much longer they’ll be blooming. Sometimes a stray plant will make it to first frost but usually not. This is a plant that doesn’t mind wet feet and that’s a good thing because the field that it grew in was flooded by all the rain. I couldn’t get near it so I had to use a lot of zoom for this shot. I love the color of the flowers so I was happy to see so many on this plant.

Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) has just about reached the end of its flowering season I thought, when I noticed the third of an inch, brown winged fruits forming. Each mature fruit has a loose skin covering a rather large starchy seed. Native Americans snacked on the raw seeds or roasted them and ground them into flower. They’re said to be quite tasty but you have to be quick, because they’re a favorite of waterfowl.

There are far fewer fragrant white waterlilies in this pond than last time I was here and that tells me that they’re nearing the end of their time with us for this year. They’re very beautiful and I’ll be sorry to not be able to visit them for a few moths. To sit with them is to learn; they ask for nothing but have everything.

He is richest who is content with the least, for contentment is the wealth of nature.

Our Plants

Description: A dense shrub (4-8 ft.) with small green leaves and tiny flowers that develop into star shaped papery seed capsules. These plants are mostly dioecious meaning that they’re usually separate male and female flowered plants, rarely they can be hermaphroditic having both flower types on the same plant. However, the seed capsules that everyone loves for lei making and plant color only comes from the female flowers. These seed capsules vary in color from cream to yellow, green, pink all the way to deep dark maroon-red.

Distribution: ‘A’ali’i is an indigenous plant with a range that starts in the dry coastal lowland areas where it was once the most dominant shrub and up into the wetter mesic forests, on all the main islands except for Kaho ʻ olawe (where it most likely occurred in the past and presently it is being out planted there), and then dominant again in the upper dry forest and sub-alpine dry forests of Maui and Hawai ʻ i.

Cultural Uses: The seed capsules are highly valued for used in lei weaving, and the red capsules are used for making a red dye. The beautiful wood of ʻ a ʻ ali ʻ i is very hard and is used for making smaller hand tools and weapons.

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant does best in full sun with well drained soil and minimal watering. Once planted and there are signs of new growth water can be cut back to once or twice every week. Looks great as an accent plant around large boulders, as specimen plants or even as a hedge, it is also very wind and drought resistant. We use this plant quite often in our restoration work especially on slopes and stream banks, the ʻ a ʻ ali ʻ i have pretty deep tap roots that act like structural pillars for slope support plus they’re tough plants that need practically no care once in the ground.

Extra Info: In Hawai ʻ i there are tons of varieties of this plant but all are classified as the same indigenous species, yet on every island, in every climate zone or elevation zone the plants will look different in some slight way from each other. It is definitely clear that more work needs to be done on the classification of this species. Other names for this plant include: ʻ a ʻ ali ʻ i ku makani, ʻ a ʻ ali ʻ i ku ma kua or kumakani.

Scientific Name: Bacopa monieri

Indigenous

Description: Dense, flat growing ground cover with light green leaves and blueish white flowers.

Landscaping Uses and Care: Water regularly for a lush, green carpet. Full sun, but shade works too. Good soil stabilizer.

Additional Info: Cut off a few strands and drop them into your aquarium for a touch of green to last several months. Your fishies will love it.

Scientific Name: Achyranthes splendens var. rotundata

Also Known As: ‘Ahinahina; Hinahina; Hinahina Ewa

Description: Although the Hawaiian name for this plant is not historically known, it is often referred to today as ‘Ahinahina, Hinahina or Hinahina Ewa. The reason for these names primarily has to do with its color. In Hawaii, many plants that are silvery in color are called hinahina or have the word hinahina in its name.

This ‘ahinahina is very silvery in color, has soft rounded leaves and can reach a height of about six feet tall. Its flowers (called spikelets) are arranged on soft spikes that protrude six to fourteen inches above the plant. They are very eye-catching and attractive in a unique way.

Distribution: Naturally, this plant is extremely rare and today on O’ahu is restricted to the coastal coral plains of Kalaeloa near Ewa, hence the name Hinahina Ewa and the mid-elevation dry forest of Makaha Valley as well as out at Ka’ena pt. Its range was probably much larger in the past, but the habitat in which it evolved in, the native lowland dry forest, has been greatly impacted over the last 200 years. Today this endemic plant, like many of our other native plants found here and nowhere else in the world, is now recognized as an endangered species. Right now we are in the middle of doing a 14 acre restoration at Kalaeloa removing all of the alien plants like koa haole and kiawe and replacing them with the few remnant native plants still found there, one of which is this plant. In fact just yesterday with the help of 17 Kamehameha school students and 2 teachers we were able to out plant over 1400 native plants, 800 of them being ‘ahinahina.

Landscape Use and Care: ‘Ahinahina love full sun just as mentioned above, all the plants that are called hinahina are silvery in appearance, this is an evolutionary adaptation to living in extremely sunny and/or hot areas. The silvery color is usually derived from tiny hairs that cover the surface of the leaves to reflect intense sunlight keeping the plant from losing excess moisture. When watering the plant, its best to soak the ground and then let it dry out for a couple of days before watering again, watering less as the plant becomes established. Too much water and/or shade will result in the plant becoming more green looking and not so silvery. This can also “soften” the plant making it more desirable for pests like mealy bugs and scales.

‘Ahinahina can also be pruned or chopped back if it gets larger than desired, but it will form a naturally round shape on its own. Plant it near dark backdrops like green or red ti leaves or lava rocks to really show off its silvery appearance. Also, make sure that there aren’t a lot of ants in the area as they may bring mealy bugs that attack this plant. If you notice them on your plant, then simply cut the affected area off and control the ants using granular pesticide.

Cultural Use: The spikes and new leaves of this plant are used in Wili and Haku Lei.

Scientific Name: Mariscus javanicus

Indigenous: All islands except Kahoolawe

Description: A greenish blue rush with linear leaves 40-110 cm. long. The flower clusters emerge umbrella like at the surface with many tiny spikelets (which contain the seed.) The margins of the leaves are very coarse and abrasive.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant native to tropical Africa, Asia as well as Hawaii. Here it is found on all of the major islands except Kahoolawe but also found on Midway atoll. Ahuawa is common in marshes, loi (kalo patches), along side streams and ditches, coastal pastures, rocky coastal sites, and cliffs.

Landscape uses: Ahuawa thrives in moist soil and full sun, therefore it is an excellent plant for the outside pond. The color of the leaves also adds great contrast to accentuate rock features.

Extra Info: Hawaiians use the pounded stems of this plant to strain pulp out of awa- a drink made from the pound root of the awa plant Piper methysticum.

Description: A very rare group of plants, comprised of four species within the endemic genus Nothocestrum. The wood of this plant is generally soft with a light brown to grayish-white bark. Most of the leaves tend to gather towards the tip of the branches but very few at that. The most impressive feature of this group of plants is their flowers. Easily one of the most pleasantly fragrant flowers native to Hawaii, it is only rivaled against by a handful of others. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into small orange-red fruit about an inch long filled with numerous little seeds.

Distribution: As stated before all Aiea are extremely rare, this one in particular is listed as endangered and is only found in the dry forests from Ka’u to Waimea on the island of Hawai’i.

Cultural Uses: If available the flowers make the most beautiful smelling lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: Honestly, there is little known about the use of this plant in the landscape being that it is so rare. But given its natural habitat it would do best in full sun with well drained soil, paying close attention to not over water it. The rarity and of course unbelievable smell of the flowers make it a plant to cherish if ever made available to own.

Extra Info: The area known as Aiea is named after this rare plant. Try going there today to find its namesake tree… I wouldn’t hold my breath doing so.

Scientific Name: Schoenoplectella tabernae-montani

Description: Green onion on steroids is what they look like, but really they’re tall native bulrushes.

Cultural Uses: Used to make quick temporary mats as well as to be layered to soften bedding.

Landscape Uses and Care: Looks great in water features and has few pests. Full sun with moderate water is best.

Additional Information: Don’t be confused! It’s not the rush you see growing in numerous wetlands like Kawainui. That one is S. californicus, an invasive rush that outcompetes native plants and chokes out wetlands, restricting the foraging range of endangered wetland birds.

Scientific Name: Wikstroemia uva-ursi

Endemic: Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui, Molokai

Description: Dense shrubs that either grow prostrate or sprawl up to 3-4 ft. tall. They have small oval shaped leaves, greenish-blue in color that is attached to braches which are reddish brown. When in bloom, numerous clusters of tiny yellow flowers develop which eventually turn into small orange or red fruits about ½-3/4 inch in diameter. The flowers have a very musky but distinct scent to them and can be easily smelt from a distance usually more so in the early evening.

Distribution: This endemic plant can easily be seen in numerous landscapes throughout Honolulu and the rest of the State. This plant, along with naupaka (Scaevola sericea), pohinahina (Vitex rotundifolia), and pualoalo (Hibiscus arnottianus) are among the most used native plants in Hawaiian landscapes today. Although, in the wild it is quite rare, found only in dry, open, often disturbed, lowland or coastal habitats on Kaua’i, O’ahu Molokai, and Maui where it is also reported as far inland as ‘Iao Valley.

Cultural Uses: Many members of this genus Wikstroemia were used as a narcotic to catch fish. The bark, roots and leaves were pounded and mixed with bait and then thrown in the water to feed the fish; upon ingesting, the fish would swim in a “drunken” state which made them easier to scoop up with a net or to spear. The mashed plant parts are also used in Hawaiian spell casting and sorcery.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant has proven itself over the years as one of the best landscape plants for Hawaii’s environment, not just among native species but even non-native. They’re extremely hardy, requiring very little water and grow slow enough so that you don’t need to maintain them as much once they reach their desired height. Few pests if any bother ‘akia and their bright colors when in fruit make this plant even more attractive than normal. If you need a low hedge about 3 ft tall or a colorful accent plant that is easily shaped, then ‘akia is for you.

Extra info: People often ask if the attractive fruit are poisonous and if they should worry about kids or pets eating them. From what I’ve heard it’s the stem, leaves and roots that make the fish narcotic not so much the attractive fruit and it only affects cold-blooded animals anyway. I’ve also seen birds eat the fruits daily with no ill effects and the fruit taste so bad that any human who put it in their mouth would immediately spit it out, you can trust me on that, its terrible.

Scientific Name: Wikstroemia oahuense

Endemic: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Lanai

Description: Tall shrubs or small trees up to 12 ft high with very few braches. Bark is thin and medium to dark brown with white leaf scars. Leaves vary greatly but this form has larger, narrowly elliptic leaves that are light green. Flowers form in clusters and are yellow to bright green. Once pollinated, they form orange fruit with a single black seed.

Distribution: This species of ‘akia kuahiwi is found on the islands of Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i from lowland wet and hala forests to mesic forests, bog’s and ridges.

Cultural Uses: The bark of this plant was stripped to make very strong cordage. Some sources also list it as a plant used to make kapa. It was also used medicinally to treat asthma and also as a laxative. Many species of ‘akia and ‘akia kuahiwi can be used to perform a fishing method called hola to stupefy fish. Various parts of the plant were mixed with chum and spread through the water. When fish ate the mixture they became intoxicated which made them easier to scoop with a net or to spear. A concoction to execute criminals was also made from mixing the bark and roots of ‘akia kuahiwi with other plants. In addition to all of these uses the bright fruit were often strung into lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant looks best when treated as a specimen plant but make sure to include other plants around it since it is pretty skinny looking in nature. Other darker ground covers or lower shrubs like the more common ‘akia (W. uva-ursi) would look nice around it. Few pests bother this plant and once established in the ground it requires very little watering. Right now Hui Ku Maoli Ola native plant nursery has beautiful large specimens about 5 feet tall in 3 gallon pots for only $20.

Extra Info: Another name for this plant is Aoaoa.

Scientific Name: Sporobolus virginicus

Scientific Name: Hibiscus furcellatus

Also Known As: Purple Hibiscus

Indigenous: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii

Description: A medium sized hibiscus about eight feet tall with rough leaves that are slight to moderately lobed. New stems, flower buds, and leaf surface are densely pubescent. They have awesome flowers that emerge on tall stems which stand up above the rest of the plant. Each flower is large and has light purple/pink petals with a dark purple center and staminal column. Once pollinated, the calyx will turn brown and be filled with many small, shiny brown seeds.

Distribution: This is the only native hibiscus besides hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) that is indigenous since it is native to Hawaii as well as Florida all the way down to South America, the rest of the native hibiscus are endemic. Here in Hawaii ‘akiohala is found on Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui and the Big Island in lowland wet areas but was once much more widespread than its current population.

Cultural Uses: Flowers can be used medicinally as a laxative and also for a dye, while the bark can be stripped and woven into cordage.

Landscape Uses and Care: ‘Akiohala are great as specimen plants and need very little care. Although naturally they are found in wet areas, in the landscape they require very little watering. Basically they require only full sun (which will encourage profuse blooms) with daily watering only until established then watering can be reduced. Watch out for rose beetles that make holes in the leaves. They can be taken care of by either spraying with a systemic pesticide or by placing the plant near a light source at night such as landscape lighting, a porch light or even a street light.

Extra Info: Ever see purple bees before? Well chances are if you own this plant you will. One of the pollinators for this plant are the large black carpenter bees which people often call bumble bees, anyway, when these bees fly into the flower to retrieve nectar their buzzing causes the purple pollen to sprinkle on them covering their whole body so when they fly out, they’re purple. ‘Akiohala also goes by the names ‘Akiahala, Hauhele, and Hauhelewai since it resembles our state flower Ma’ohauhele but is often located near fresh water, wai, hence the name hauhelewai.

Scientific Name: Chamaesyce celasroides

Endemic: All of HI including Nihoa

Description: Prostrate groundcovers two feet tall or less or erect shrubs up to six feet with thick, glabrous leaves. This very attractive plant has light blue-green leaves with tiny, yellow, insignificant (for landscape purposes) flowers. It forms a very dense bush or nice looking ground cover depending on the variety.

Distribution: This prostrate form of this plant is endemic to the islands of Maui, and Hawaii, while shrub form shown is from Kaua’i, Ni’ihau and Nihoa. Both forms are found near or on the coast. Another form of this plant is an endangered subspecies which has narrower leaves, is a low crawling shrub and is found on O’ahu.

Landscape Use: This beautiful plant makes an excellent accent or specimen plant for around rocky areas. Its vivid, blueish color adds remarkable contrast. Its dense character also makes it good for a medium sized hedge. This type of ‘Akoko is very sun, drought, and wind tolerant once established in the ground and is bothered by few pests if any.

Additional Info: The name for this plant, ‘Akoko, is derived from its leaves which turn blood red before they fall off. The plant also “bleeds” a milky sap when damaged.

Scientific Name: Sesuvium portulacastrum

Inigenous: All HI

Description: The akulikuli plant is a very low crawling ground cover. It has very succulent green leaves with bright red stems and purplish pink flowers.

Distribution: Akulikuli is an indigenous coastal ground cover found on all Hawaiian Islands as well as other islands in the Pacific. They grow on both rocky and sandy beaches or around estuaries and marshes

Landscape Use: Akulikuli is a very drought, wind and salt tolerant plant. It makes a great ground cover for any garden and does best with lots of sun. In its natural setting, akulikuli forms dense a mat and its leaves look like they are ready to pop because they are so succulent. This look can be achieved in the landscape by reducing the watering schedule once plant is established. Otherwise if the plant is watered too regularly it will grow quickly, but its leaves will not be as succulent.

Cultural Uses: The flowers as well as the leaves and branches can be strung into lei. The leaves can also be eaten but have a rather salty taste to them, more so they were used as roughage in pig feed.

Scientific Name: Peperomia blanda

Indigenous : All the main islands except Kahoolawe

Description: A low growing very succulent plant that grows up to about 10 inches tall with fleshy, light green stems, dark green leaves that have a semi-rough texture, sometimes reddish-pink streaks are found on the underside of the leaves. They have tiny insignificant flowers that rise up above the rest of the plant on short soft flowering stalks and once pollinated they form slightly adhesive, poppy-seed looking seeds that cover the stalk.

Distribution: In Hawai’i, this indigenous plant is found in numerous types of environments from dry rocky areas in full sun to shadier mesic forests. In many cases, they can be found growing on mossy rocks under larger trees. Once I even seen this species of ‘ala’alawainui growing directly on an asphalt road and to tell you the truth it was one of the nicest examples I’ve ever seen because it formed a nice dense mat-like covering, it was very cool. Today this plant exists naturally on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except Kaho’olawe although it most likely occurred there in the past.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant looks great as an accent plant around large landscape stones or as a bedding plant. Full sun is ok but partial shade is better. In full sun, ‘Ala’alawainui will require a little more water than if in partial shade. When used as a bedding plant, space them approximately one foot apart since this plant doesn’t spread too far. Few pests are known to bother this plant, but I have seen slugs munch on the young off shoots.

Cultural Uses: A rich, gray dye for dying kapa can be made from the ashes of this plant.

Scientific Name: Psydrax odoratum

Indigenous

Description: A large tree (20-30 ft.) with glossy green leaves and small, white, highly fragrant flower clusters. As the tree grows, it has a radially symmetric growth pattern to it, somewhat like a Christmas Tree, which by the way it subs as an excellent one. Not only that if you keep it alive in a pot then you can plant it in your yard after.

Distribution: This indigenous tree is found in the dry to mesic forests on all the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe. In certain localities you can still find this plant along the coast

Cultural Uses: Digging tools and Adze handles were made from the hard wood of this plant while a black dye was also made from the leaves. In addition the flowers and fruit are used in lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: Alahe’e loves full sun and or partial shade and requires minimal watering once plant is established in the ground. Looks great as a single specimen plant or even used as a hedge.

Additional Info: The name alahe’e means slippery/wandering fragrance. It gets this name because when in full bloom, the plant is completely covered in flower clusters and many times you’ll smell the plant before you actually see it.

Scientific Name: Boerhavia repens

Indigenous

Description: Somewhat succulent herbs with a thick center root from which prostrate stems branch out radially. Leaves are small and rounded. From the leaf axis, small white flower clusters extend up from a single, narrow stem.

Distribution: This native Hawaiian plant is found primarily in coastal areas in both rocky and sandy soil types. They are often found mixed in with other coastal ground covers like Pa’u o Hi’iaka (Jacquemontia ovalifolia), ‘Ilima papa (Sida fallax) and Nehe (Wollastonia integrifolia). They’re found throughout the Pacific islands, and here in Hawaii they’re found on all the main islands, as well as most of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Cultural Uses: The succulent roots of Alena are used as a diuretic.

Landscaping Uses and Care: Alena looks great in landscapes that incorporate a lot of rocks. Their light green foliage and white flowers contrast nicely with the rocks, and make the rocks stand out. Plant them in full sun with about a one foot spacing to ensure a full look. Daily watering is OK as long as the plants are in well-drained soil. Otherwise, water them once the soil has dried. After the plants are established, watering can be reduced to about once a week or a little more frequently if conditions are dry.

Additional Information: There are four species of Boerhavia found in Hawaii; all but one are native and all have small sticky fruit that make the plant easily dispersible. The single non-native species (Boerhavia coccinea) has the stickiest and produces the most seeds, which usually stand higher off the ground than the other plants’, making them easier to attach to passing people, animals, vehicles, etc. The germination rate of the seeds is also high and they become well-rooted, making them a tough weed. It’s no wonder why this plant, although a recent introduction, is well-established and widespread.

Scientific Name: Sadleiria spp.

Endemic: All HI

Description: Commonly mistaken for hapu’u fern the easiest way to distinguish amau is from its new fronds that once unrolled are bright red then eventually turn green as they age. It also has more narrow frondlets which uncurl outwards unlike hapu’u which has more elaborate frondlets that they themselves look like individual fronds. The pulu on amau is more coarse and golen than the fine pulu of hapuu.

Distribution: There are several species of amau ferns that are endemic to all the main islands. In addition, there are two species that are found only on Kaua’i.

Cultural Uses: Occasionally in times of famine the starchy pith of ama’u was eaten just like that of hapu’u. A red dye was also extracted from the cortex of the trunk. The sap from within the rolled up fronds was used as a glue for binding and patching sheets of kapa. The fronds were also used as thatching the center ridge pole for waterproofing, or sometimes the whole house when pili wasn’t available.

Landscape Uses and Care: Ama’u look great in any landscape and can handle much more intense sun and drier conditions than hapu’u but still does well in partial shade too. Daily watering is needed once the plant is established then slowly reduce to a good soaking at least twice a week. Few pests bother this fern and once you have it growing you’ll be amazed.

Extra Info: Other names for amau include: mau, maumau, puaaehuehu, and amaumau. The main crater at Kilauea, Halemaumau literally means home of the amau since the crater and surrounding areas are loaded with them. The picture above is taken inside this crater.

Scientific Name: Colubrina asiatica

Indigenous: Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, and Moloka’i

Description: Large shrubs with extremely glossy leaves almost resembling a coffee plant. It has small yellow-green flowers that once pollinated turn into small apple shaped fruit about 3/4” in diameter. The foliage is sometimes sparse on the branches still the plant is very bushy. Often it will grow on and over other shrubs and trees, including other anapanapa, needing their support to grow taller.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant generally found in lowland areas like near the ocean or around wetlands.

Cultural Uses: No known cultural use

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant makes excellent screens or dense hedges up to 10 ft. tall however it will get over 6 ft. wide in order to make an efficient screen. Plant it about 3 ft. apart with daily watering once established and it will do fine. Little water is needed once the plant is established though making it a great xeriscape plant. Few pests bother this plant as well.

Extra Info: ‘Anapanapa is in the same genus (Colubrina) as kauila (C. oppositifolia) which is one of the hardest of native woods.

Scientific Name: Tephrosia purpurea

Also Known As: Hawaiian Fish Poisoning Plant

Polynesian Introduction: All of the main islands

Description: Small shrubs 3-4 ft. tall with small compound leaves, tiny purplish white pea flowers (about an inch wide) that emerge above the stem lined up on a stalk, eventually turning in to small pea-like seed pods. These plants are short-lived though lasting only about 1-2 years. They do set many seeds which normally germinate before the original plant dies so instead of the original one you planted, now you’ll have four or five.

Distribution: This plant is found all over the world from Africa, Asia, Australia and even other parts of the Pacific. In Hawai’i it’s a Polynesian introduction that is found on all the main islands in extremely dry locations like lava fields, rocky slopes, dry ridges as well as coastal areas.

Cultural Uses: Like the title says, ‘Auhuhu is used to intoxicate fish in closed bodies of water (like tidal pools) to make them easier to catch. The plant contains a chemical which drugs certain cold blooded animals like fish. By pounding various parts of the ‘auhuhu and placing it in the holes of the reef, or within enclosed water bodies, the fish would become drugged which made scooping them up or spearing them much easier.

Landscape Use: Because of where this plant is found naturally, it would be a perfect plant for those interested in xeriscaping, its short stature and cute flowers are a bonus. It does best in full sun and watering is minimal once the plant is established. Few pests are known to bother this plant making it that much better. Like I said earlier, this plant does reproduce fairly quick so don’t be surprised to find several plants around your original plant, but don’t pull them out, utilize your cultural practice and go fishing! Just make sure to only catch what you would eat and save the rest for stocking the future so everyone can eat.

Other information: Other Hawaiian names for this plant are: Ahuhu, ‘Auhola, and Hola. Also, the word ‘Auhuhu pa’ina which translates as “a time so dry that even the ‘auhuhu plant became brittle” is another word for the collective summer months otherwise known as Makali’i.

Scientific Name: Zingerber zerumbet

Polynesian Introduced – Common – Medicinal

Description: Awesome understory or full sun specimen. Watch out, like most gingers it has the ability to take over an area. It also is deciduous meaning that it annually loses its foliage after flowering and lays dormant for about 3 months but will pop up bigger and fuller the next season!

Cultural Uses: Medicinally, for cooking (leaves wrapped and flavored meat), drinking and to make one smell better.

Landscape Uses and Care: Anywhere in your garden but remember it dies back annually so you don’t want to put it in a high traffic area or esle it’ll look bare for a few months out of the year.

Scientific Name: Chenopodium oahuense

Endemic: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, Hawaii, plus Lisianski, Laysan, Necke, French Frigate Shoals, Nihoa.

With all the news about people fishing for ‘Aweoweo (Priacanthus spp.) at He’eia pier and all over the islands a few years ago, I thought it would be interesting to share with people information of this Hawaiian plant with the same name. If you’re wondering why a fish and a plant would have the same Hawaiian name then you must go all the way back to the beginning: The Kumulipo. In this Hawaiian creation chant many things are created in a dualistic manner meaning that when one thing is created in the ocean, there is often a counter part created on land or in the air or both!

Description: ‘Aweoweo are typically low shrubs to small trees 2-8ft. tall with light blue/green leaves that are in the shape of a goose’s foot (they belong to the goose foot plant family Chenopodiacae). Sometimes the leaves call be very tiny, about ¼”-1/2″ across or they can be up to 2 inches depending on the growing conditions. Usually less water and more sun will result in smaller, thicker leaves whereas regular watering will make the plant have larger more thin leaves like in the picture. The flowers are very small and are in clusters above the plant. The older stems are usually streaked with red, similar to the fish, but also, when the leaves and flowers are crushed it smells just like the ‘aweoweo fish too! fo’ real! I not joking! But, you have to crush it first. You don’t have to worry about the plant smelling up your yard.

Distribution: ‘Aweoweo, the plant not the fish, is found in drier, harsh habitats like near the ocean, in the lowland dry forest or all the way up in the sub-alpine shrub land of the large volcanoes like Mauna Kea. Although its species name is oahuense, this endemic plant is found on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except Kaho’olawe (it was probably found there before) but also on most of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands as well.

Landscape use and care: This plant is bullet proof! It likes full sun, and little to no watering once established. There are also hardly any bugs that attack this plant either. Sometimes you may notice some scale or aphids but this can be easily removed by hand or by spraying off with water.

Cultural Uses: The young leaves and stems are wrapped in ti leaves and steamed to be eaten in times of famine. The harder wood at the base of the plant can also be shaped in to fish hooks so you can catch ‘aweoweo with ‘aweoweo.

Additional Info: Other names for this plant include: ‘Aheahea, ‘ahea, ‘ahewahewa, alaweo, alaweo huna (Ni’ihau), kaha’iha’i.

Scientific Name: Canavalia hawaiiensis

Endemic: Lanai, Maui, Hawaii

Description: A climbing vine with very pubescent, trifolate leaves (three leaflets comprising a single leaf) and striking purple flowers. The flowers are similar to those of pea-flowers like the ‘Ohai (Sesbania tomentosa), but are a bright purple and have a white spot at the base of the petal and keel. After the flowers are pollinated, large seed pods with 3-9 tan colored seeds, about an inch in diameter, develop on the inside.

Distribution: This endemic plant is found in the dry forest of Lana’i, Maui and Hawai’i. It can easily be seen when driving down the dirt road to South Point on the Big Island where it grows mostly as a beautiful ground cover in one of the harshest conditions known in Hawaii.

Cultural Uses: The flowers and seeds of this spectacular vine are strung into extraordinary lei. The color of the flowers range from almost all white with splashes of purple to deep purple depending on which island you are on.

Landscape Uses and Care: This is a hardy plant, it does well in full sun and can handle little watering once established in the ground. It does fine growing up a trellis, chain-link fence or another tree but also does well as a ground cover. This is a very beautiful vine that doesn’t “take over” the host plant it climbs unlike many of the introduced, invasive vines like ivy gourd, maunaloa, maile pilau, banana poka and other passion fruit vines.

Extra Info: Many people are familiar with the plant called maunaloa (Canavalia cathartica), which is used to make maunaloa lei, what people don’t realize is that maunaloa is a non-native, highly invasive alien weed that is smothering our lowland forest plants. It can be seen taking over other plants from Waimanalo, O’ahu all the way down to Na’alehu on the Big Island and pretty much everywhere else in the state. ‘awikiwiki is the original flower for the “maunaloa” type lei and is not invasive like maunaloa, in fact it is not common anywhere. If you insist on using maunaloa it would be a good idea to gather all the flowers from the wild to prevent it from producing seeds and spreading further, don’t forget that you can even use maunaloa seeds for lei so collect those too!

Scientific Name: Bonamia menziesii

Endemic – Endangered

Scientific Name: Carex wahuensis

Endemic: Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Hawaii

Description: Graceful sedges that form thick clumps and reach heights close to two feet tall, however, the long leaf blades droop downward and can actually reach lengths up to four feet long. These blades are about a half inch across at the base and gradually reduce to a narrow elongated apex. Tiny flowers emerge on the upper portion of long stalks called spikes. Once pollinated, the flowers become small seeds called achenes and can range in color from light brown to bright orange. Really attractive when contrasted against the dark green coloration of the surrounding foliage.

Distribution: The natural range of this endemic species is very diverse. Ivʻe seen them growing in the lowland dry-forest areas and upward into mesic and rain forests, from near the coast to elevations exceeding 3000 ft. Easy to find, Carex wahuensis can be seen growing on ridge lines in full sun or on slopes in the shadier under story in both relatively pristine and well disturbed surroundings. They exist on all the main islands except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau although they may have been found there in the past.

Cultural and Other Uses: The long slender leaf blades and seed clusters can be used to accentuate leis and can be used in flower arrangements.

Landscape Use and Care: I love the way Carex wahuensis looks in landscapes. They can be used either as accents around larger landscaping stones and at base of taller plants or as border plantings to define walkways and edges, similar to a low hedge. Their fine, fibrous roots are great for controlling erosion and can be planted as a mass groundcover even on steep slopes. These plants are highly versatile and can handle moderate to little watering as well as full sun to partial shade, they also standup well in areas of high winds. In fact they look really cool if placed in high “wind tunnel” like areas, their long leaf blades enable them to dance and flutter with the wind. You can even use Carex wahuensis as an indoor plant or as part of a “Living Wall” system.

Extra Info: Although there is no known Hawaiian name for this plant that is not to say that it never had one, most likely it was lost over the years. As common and beautiful as this plant is it would be hard to believe that Hawaiians didn’t recognize and name it themselves.

Scientific Name: Hedyotis Littoralis

Endemic

Description: Spectacular, unusual-looking plants, similar to succulents in appearance. Leaves are rigid, extremely glossy and elliptical. They often fold back on the margins from the base of the leaf, to the pointed tip.

New leaves emerge in pairs and alternate to the opposite side of the stem from the previous pair. Most of the branching, if any, occurs toward the base of the plant with individual stalks rising upward. Flowers are small, white and star-shaped, usually with only four lobes or petals. Numerous flowers are arranged in a round cluster that forms at stalk tip.

Distribution: This plant is naturally found on coastal sea cliffs within the salt spray on the islands of Kauai Molokai, Maui, Hawaii and formerly on Oahu.

Landscape Uses and Care: The extraordinary appearance of this plant makes it a definite “eye catcher,” and they look great, especially around rocks or in pots on the lanai. Few pests are known to bother this plant, and watering every other day is fine, making it ideal for those with not-so-green thumbs.

Latin: Lysimachia mauritiana

Description: A low crawling herbaceous groundcover with light green, succulent leaves and white flower clusters. The leaves emerge radially out from the center giving it a nice shape, while the flower clusters protrude up above the rest of the plant, allowing them to be shown off. Once pollinated the flowers develop into small light brown seed capsules, each containing numerous, tiny, dark brown seeds

Distribution: Seldom seen in the wild, this is the only native Lysimachia today that is indigenous and occurs at low elevations. All other native Lysimachia are considered endemic and occur in higher, wetter elevations. This plant is naturally found on coastal cliffs or rocky shorelines on the islands of Ni’ihau, Kauai, Molokai, Maui and Hawaii, pretty much everywhere else but O’ahu. As stated earlier this plant is indigenous therefore it is native to other places including other Pacific islands, Japan, Korea, India, Taiwan and China.

Landscape use and care: This plant looks great planted around large landscape stones or when used as a bedding plant. It doesn’t spread far, at about 1 square foot, so space accordingly. Few pests are known to bother this plant, but if some sort of infestation does occur, proper application of store-bought pesticides will not harm the plant. This plant is naturally short-lived so don’t be concerned if it slowly dies after one to two years, its natural. Ideally, the plant would have set a bunch of seeds and your next round of plants should germinate shortly after that. Other than that it is still a very attractive plant and for a limited time it is available at the Home Depot in Town and Pearl City for about $6.

Cultural uses: Other than using the flower clusters in head lei, there are no other known uses for this plant in Hawaiian culture

Additional Information: Although not found on O’ahu today its hard to say that this plant was never found here. This plant occurs naturally where many migratory birds forage so it could easily be transported from island to island. Who knows, maybe someday this plant will naturally occur here again in the future.

Scientific Name: Delissea rhytidosperma

Also Known As: ‘Oha

Endemic: Kaua’i only

Description: This is a type of native lobelia (family Campanulaceae) with herbaceous stems that sometimes branch, it also has a rosette type arrangement of leaves that cluster toward the tips of the branches and curved tubular flowers. Each leaf is elliptical in shape, about 4-10 inches long and 2 inches wide with margins that are pointedly serrated. The flowers are whitish-green and about 11/2″ long and later fade to a dark maroon before falling off. The petals are small, pointed and narrow and the stamen is situated so that it perfectly dabs pollen on the head of native nectar feeding birds so that they can pollinate other flowers in return. This flower design is common among native lobelias that have co-evolved with native avifauna. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into small, fleshy fruit that are dark maroon, about ¾” round and are filled with many tiny seeds.

Distribution: This plant species belongs to an endemic genus of native lobelias known as Delissea. It is also an endangered species that is found only in remote mesic forests of Kaua’i, there are less than 20 plants known to be left in the wild.

Cultural Uses: There are no known cultural uses of this particular plant but it is known that other members of this family are used as bait to catch birds. Bird catchers would place sticky glue made from the fruit sap of papala kepau (Pisonia spp.) on the branch that the bird would perch on to feed, it would then become stuck to the branch making it easy to retrieve. The flowers of many other species of the family Campanulaceae are also used in making lei.

Landscape Use and Care: Delissea look great as specimen plants around larger landscaping stones or at the base of other larger trees or tall hapu’u ferns. Plant them in filtered sunlight and give them water about 3-4 times a week making sure not to over saturate them. Before you know it, you will be gazing at their interesting flowers and attractive fruit. Watch out for mites and mealy bugs that may occasionally distort the shape of the leaves and either make them spotty or crinkly or both. You can treat the problem manually by smooshing them with your fingers or spraying the underside of the leaves with water. You can also treat them by spraying pesticides. Right now this extremely rare plant is available at the Home Depots on O’ahu and Kaua’i for about $9.

Additional Info: Recently this plant has been divided into two separate species D. rhytidosperma and D. kauaiense based on morphological differences and population localities. These two along with D. subcordata of O’ahu (which may also be split as well soon) are believed to be the last three surviving species of ten species of Delissea that were once documented from Hawaii. Both Kaua’i species are listed as endangered and the O’ahu species is listed as threatened and all are on their way to share the same fate as the rest of the Delissea genus if more action is not taken to prevent this.

Scientific Name: Pandanus tectorius

Description: A medium sized tree up to 30+ ft. with long spiny leaves and many prop roots.

Distribution: This indigenous tree is found on all islands except Kaho’o lawe.

Cultural Uses: Leaves for weaving mats, sails, thatch. Fruit for leis, dye brushes. Roots for cordage, medicine.

Landscape Uses and Care: Used as specimen trees in full sun. Hardy plant , daily watering O.K. A definite must have.

Extra Info: There four types of Hala recognized by Hawaiians based on the color of their fruit: common hala with yellow fruit, hala ‘ula with orange fruit, hala lihilihi ‘ula with red fruits that fade to yellow below and hala pia with small, pale yellow fruit.

Scientific Name: Antidesma pulvinatum

Endemic: O’ahu, Moloka’i, Maui, and Hawai’i

Description: These are small trees up that can grow anywhere between 6-25 ft. tall.

They have beautiful foliage in terms of their color: which is a glossy maroon when young and a glossy dark green when older; their shape: elliptical with clean margins and a sharp apex; and their arrangement which alternates tightly along each branch. Flowers develop on panicles which turn into small reddish-purple grapelike fruit. The contrast between the young leaves, mature leaves and fruit make this plant very attractive.

Distribution: This species of Antidesma is not too common but can occasionally be seen in the dry to mesic forests of O’ahu, Molokai, Maui, and Hawai’i. The one pictured here is from the Wai’anae Mts. on O’ahu.

Cultural Use: The hardwood of hame is used to make anvils either for beating kapa or even more for preparing olona (kahako over the a) (Touchardia lattifolia) to make cordage. The dark reddish-purple berries are also used to make a dye for kapa.

Landscape Use and Care: This tree would make an excellent addition to any garden. Its attractiveness extends well beyond the native plant enthusiasts’ eyes and is fairly easy to take care of. Daily watering is ok in well drained soil but reduce to watering only when needed once the plant is established. This plant also and thrives in full sun to somewhat filtered sunlight. Young trees are more susceptible to damage from either mealy bugs or aphids but can be easily remedied by pruning off affected leaves.

Other Info: This is one of two species of Antidesma native to Hawai’i. Both are called hame but other names for the two include: ha’a (with a kahako above the second a), ha’amaile (same kahako placing), hamehame, mehame, and mehamehame (not to be confused with another plant called mehamehame, (that has a kahako over the first e) Fluggea neowawraea which is an endangered species and known for its extremely dense hardwood, but occurs in the same family as hame (Euphorbiacea).

Scientific Name: Rauvolfia sandwicensis

Description: These plants are one of a few native plants related to Plumeria, which is not native. They are gorgeous trees which can reach heights up to 30 ft. but generally are in the 5- 15 ft. range with great looking elliptical leaves that form whorls of up to seven leaves per node. Each leaf has smooth margins, is bright green with a yellow mid-rib and is about five inches in length. The flowers are very tiny, white and emerge on clusters just like Plumeria and have a fragrance very similar to it; surprisingly they are very easy to smell considering how small they are. Once pollinated, the flowers will form small fruit about ¾ of an inch across which eventually turn dark purple/black when ripe. The outer bark is a very light tan as is the inner wood which is very hard hence the name “hao” which is also the Hawaiian word for iron or any iron tool. Like the Plumeria, hao also bleeds a milky sap when either leaves or stems are broken.

Distribution: This is an uncommon tree most likely found in mesic forests but occasionally lower dry forests on all of the larger islands except Kaho’olawe, although it may have well occurred there in the past.

Landscape Use and Care: Hao look great anywhere and if more were available I’m sure you would see it more often, its sad that more people are familiar with its non-native cousin the Plumeia. You could plant it as a specimen plant or use it to fill blank spaces, they thrive in full sun to light shade and require minimal watering once established. You can pretty much plant it anywhere you would normally plant a Plumeria. Few pests bother it since most don’t like their milky sap. Personally I think this plant is awesome; I love the way it looks as well as the beauty it adds to the landscape.

Additional Info: Like I said above, this is one of a few native plants related to Plumeria which are in the family Apocynacea, the other native plants in this family include maile (Alyxia oliviformis) which is still faily common; holei (Ochrosia spp.) which is very rare; and kaulu (Pteralyxia spp.) which is very, very rare.

Scientific Name: Cibotium glaucum

Endemic: All HI

Description: Beautiful tree ferns with large fronds that have bluish green undersides and soft “pulu” at the base of the fronds and on new frond fiddle heads.

Distribution: Hapuu are found on all of the main islands except for Kahoolawe where it was probably found in the past in wet forests.

Landscape Use and Care: If you have a lot of rain then this is the plant for you, it rocks! If not then definitely consider moving to a rainy place, learning a rain dance or installing some good irrigation that goes off pretty regularly. Ideally its best to water both the fronds as well as the apex of the fern where all the new shoots emerge. That being said its pretty easy to grow, you don’t have to do much but be patient since this fern grows really slow. Also, leave room for this plant to grow since its fronds can reach out over 10 ft.

Cultural Uses: The starch within the trunk was cooked and eaten in times of famine while the pulu is used in burial ceremonies and to aid in cleaning out digestive tracts.

Additional Info: The hapu’u is often referred to as the mother of the forest since the seeds and spores of many other native plants will germinate, grow and possibly take over the hapu’u.

Scientific Name: Kokia drynarioides

Endemic: Hawaii Island Only

Description: A beautiful hibiscus tree with large maple-like leaves and gorgeous salmon colored flowers with petals that ruffle and tweak backwards, very unusual. This plant can be quite tall for a hibiscus, reaching heights of up to 25 ft. plus.

Distribution: This federally listed endangered tree is endemic to the island of Hawaii where it is found in the upper dry forest and ‘a’a lava fields of North Kona. It is extremely rare in the wild with only two plants remaining.

Cultural Uses: A pinkish dye can be made from the flowers of this plant as well as a darker reddish dye derived from the bark used to color fishnets. There is also documentation of the flowers being used for lei. A good picture of this plant used in lei can be seen in the book Na Lei Makamae by Paul Weisich and Marie McDonald.

Landscape Use and Care: This magnificent tree, if available, should be planted in more yards and gardens. Mature trees bloom profusely from late summer to early fall. Good drainage is key for this plant to thrive, and requires little to no watering once established in the ground. We have a variegated plant of this in the ground at our nursery in fairly poor, but dry soil, doing very well. My neighbor in Waimanalo also has one that is absolutely jamming and looking great. The soil there is also very dry but very sandy which allows for good drainage. Occasionally, white flies accumulate on the undersides of the leaves, store bought pesticides should take care of that with no harm to the plant as long as the directions are followed. Try and stay away from oil based pesticides, these may burn the leaves. If you notice crinkling of the leaves with soft white powdery mass at the base of the leaves and a lot of ants, then those are mealy bugs. The ants farm the mealy bugs to harvest a sugary substance they secrete while feeding on the plant. Kill the mealy bugs by smashing them or cutting off the portion if it is really bad. After that get rid of the ants with pesticides and that should remedy the problem.

Additional Info: Kokia is an endemic genus to Hawaii represented by four different species: Kokia drynarioides, discussed here from the Big Island; Kokia kauaiensis another endangered species from Kaua’i; Kokia cookei from Molokai, often referred to as the rarest plant in the world since it usually exists as grafted clones to the other two species mentioned above but now actual seeds from mature grafts have been germinated which is good because it allows for genetic recombination which could overall produce a stronger plant that in the long run will strengthen the species; and finally, Kokia lanceolata from O’ahu, it was last documented in 1888 near Koko Head and in Wailupe, it has not been seen since then and is now presumed extinct.

Scientific Name: Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum

Indigenous: All HI

Description: A prostrate ground cover with one of the nicest smelling flower clusters of all the native Hawaiian plants. Each flower cluster is comprised of up to 15 small white flowers that protrude up above a tight, silvery rosette of leaves.

Distribution: This indigenous plant is found throughout the Pacific, in Hawaii it is found on the shoreline of all the main islands. (see additional info. below) where they may have occurred in the past. It thrives in the harsh environment along the coast nearest the ocean where there is usually intense sunlight, strong winds, and very little water in both rocky and sandy terrains.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant will live and look best if planted in an area that most closely resembles its natural habitat, in other words, as much sun as you can give it, be planted in well drained soil, and not have too much water, don’t be afraid of planting it in a high wind area, it can handle trust me. If given too much water, shade or both the plant will grow too fast, become leggy, be greener and not look so silvery, plus the rosette of leaves will not be tight but loose and not look good. In addition, the quick, soft growth of the plant will make it more susceptible to pests like aphids, mealy bugs or scales. If you notice these pests on your plant you can treat it by either shooting it off with water or by spraying it with a pesticide designed for those specific bugs. When planted in the right location this plant is one of the most stunning groundcovers around. It looks especially nice planted around larger landscaping stones and when they’re in bloom, wow! For a limited time this plant is available at all the Home Depots for only $5.96

Cultural Uses: The flowers and leaf rosettes are highly prized and valued for lei making. It would be nice to have this plant in your own yard that way all your lei making material is there for your use and you wouldn’t have to go out and potentially diminish what few plants remain in the wild.

The leaves and flowers can also be steeped in boiling water to make a nice tasting, mild tea.

Additional Info: One of my references says that this plant is no longer found on the island of Kaho’olawe which is strange because hinahina is the island plant of Kaho’olawe just like how ‘ilima is for O’ahu and Lokelani (which is not native by the way) is to Maui. Don’t confuse this hinahina plant with the introduced air plant called Spanish moss often called hinahina or Pele’s hair, there is absolutely no relation whatsoever and they only share the name because they are both silvery-gray (hinahina in Hawaiian) in color.

Scientific Name: Pittosporum hosmeri

Endemic: Hawaii Island Only

Description: These are usually small trees up to about 20-25 ft. tall with long tear-drop shaped leaves. The young leaves as well as the underside of the more mature leaves are usually covered with minute, golden-brown hairs. Their flowers emerge as “manapua” shaped clusters which protrude right out of the stems. Once pollinated, they develop into large nut shaped capsules that are almost cubicle in form and about three inches long and 1-2 inches wide. Inside are numerous reddish-black seeds which totally stand out against the bright orange inner surface of the seed capsule.

Distribution: This plant is only found on the island of Hawai’i but through out leeward side from Kohala to Ka’u in mesic forests.

Cultural Uses: There isn’t much known about this plant from a cultural point of view but in nature it is interesting to see the seed capsules when they become ripe. At this point they open up by fold back and exposing the bright orange inner surface and dark seeds within. This is to attract birds that feed on the oily seeds and help the plant with seed dispersal. In fact this is one of the favorite foods of the nearly extinct Hawaiian crow the ‘alala.

Landscape Uses and Care: Easily one of the nicest foliage plants native to Hawaii these plants do great in full sun to partial shade in well drained soil with little to moderate watering. The foliage along with the unique form of the flower clusters and stunning seed capsules make this an extraordinary plant. If left alone to grow it will be a large bush but full of foliage from bottom to top. Few pests bother this plant once it is established in the ground but prior to that happening watch out for mealy bugs, scale and the formation of sooty mold. If you notice these pests on the plant you can simply treat it with a store bought pesticide and fungicide being sure to follow the directions on the bottle carefully. Right now beautiful specimens of this plant in three gallon pots are available at Hui Ku Maoli Ola native plant nursery for $40.

Additional Info: This plant also goes by the name ha’awa, a’awa, a’awa hua kukui. The latter name ‘a’awa hua kukui probably stems from the fact that this plant’s fruit (hua) somewhat resembles that of a kukui nut.

Scientific Name: Portulaca lutea

Indigenous: Northwestern H.I., Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, and Hawaii

Description: Prostrate herbs with thick stems and tightly arranged, alternating leaves which are rounded and very succulent (very similar in apperance to the dwarf jade plant, only this plant is prostrate). On the top of the stems a small cup of leaves hold a cluster of yellow flowers each one about an inch and a half in diameter. This plant closely resembles and introduced Portulaca often referred to as pigweed, but that plant has very small yellow flowers about a quarter inch in diameter and often has softer stems that are red towards the base whereas the native one has a light tan, almost woody looking base.

Distribution: This type of ‘ihi (there are a few other native species found here) is an indigenous plant which naturally exists on coastal and strand habitats in medium such as lava, raised coral reef, sand and soil. It is found on the majority of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as well as O’ahu, Molokai, Maui, Lana’i and Hawai’i.

Landscape Use and Care: This species of ‘ihi, like most others prefer full sun with only the occasional watering. Daily watering is not recommended, rather soak the ground every 2-3 days to let the soil dry out. Sandy soil is also preferred for good drainage. When given daily watering, you will notice the plant “taking off”, becoming very large and healthy looking. Although, it looks nice then, the plant is actually becoming very “soft” and appetizing for pests. When in its natural state, few pests bother it, although mealy bugs are sometimes noticed at the leaf axis. These can be removed by hand or sprayed with pesticide. If the situation looks out of control, simply cut off the infected areas and allow the plant to grow back, keeping an eye on it to prevent future infestations. If you decide to add it to your yard, plant it as a bedding plant or at the base of larger landscape stones. They also look great in soil pockets between rock clusters. When in bloom, their yellow flowers really stand out against the darker rocks and if you’re lucky after they bloom they’ll drop their seeds creating a future stock of ‘ihi plants for your garden.

Scientific Name: Portulaca molokiniensis

Endemic: Molokini, Kaho’olawe

Description: Short and stocky is the best description for these rare succulents. They have thick leaves that usually cluster towards the top of an even thicker stem. These plants usually branch up from the ground and look more like tiny cactus than Portulaca. They also have a cluster of bright yellow flowers that sit in a cup of leaves which rises up from a long tube above the plant, they’re really cool looking. By far these are one of the most exotic looking plant specimens from Hawai’i if not the world.

Distribution: These plants are fairly rare and are restricted to coastal rocky areas with only three known populations on Molokini island (which is that tiny horse shoe shaped island off the coast of Maui), Pu’ukoa’e islet, and Kaho’olawe.

Landscape Use and Care: This type of ‘ihi look great anywhere, they even look good in pots for the lanai. In landscapes, put them around larger landscape stones as accents. They like well drained soil and full sun. The best way to water these plants if they don’t have well drained soil is to soak the ground and not water again until the soil is dried out. Few pests bother this plant, but if you begin to notice tiny black spots on the leaves just spray with any type of plant pesticide and you should notice the new leaves being spot free.

Additional Information: There are a total of four known native species of Portulaca in Hawaii which came from two distinct colonizations. One of these includes both P. villosa and P. sclerocarpa which are two endemic and very rare species, they very similar in appearance with both having linear succulent leaves and pink and white flower petals. The other colonization comes from P. lutea which is an indigenous species with yellow flowers and rounder leaves. It is believed that P. molokiniensis evolved from this plant to become its own endemic species.

Scientific Name: Marsilea villosa

Endemic, Endangered

Description: As much as it looks like it, ihiihilauakea is not a four-leaf clover. In fact, it is not a flowering plant at all, but a tiny fern reaching up to 6 inches. This petite plant with an oversize name sprawls across the ground with tendril-like rhizomes and periodically sends out a four-petal frond on a stalk no thicker than a strand of hair. At night the fronds fold up, then open again after the sun rises.

Distribution: This rare, endangered fern is found in dry lowland areas of Oahu and Molokai, typically in shallow, short-lived ponds where the fronds look as if they are floating on the surface, like a small lily pad. Although they normally live in dry habitats, it is essential for them to experience periods of moisture throughout the year because their male and female gametes (reproductive bodies) meet via the water for reproduction.

Cultural Uses: There are no known cultural uses for this fern, although it can definitely come in handy during St. Patrick’s Day. Just carry a stalk in your pocket, and when your friends come up to punch, pinch or poke you for not wearing anything green, just whip this out and get them back. Or present it to your significant other, suggesting you searched for hours to find this one four-leafed clover for someone so special. Just make sure they don’t find out you have a pot of these precious four-leaf impostors.

Landscape Uses and Care: These dainty ferns look great in moist soil around larger rocks or in water features where they can be submerged enough so their fronds float on the surface. Keep them in full sun and they’ll flourish.

Additional Information: This plant is also known as ‘ihi’ihi and ‘ihila’au, but I prefer the name ‘ihi’ihilauakea because it is also the name of the crater on the western end of Hanauma Bay in which this fern is found, as well as the name of the wind that blows across that area. More important, it is also the name of a woman who was an alii from Waimanalo who lived near the crater and was known for her beauty, kindness and ability to kick any woman or man’s behind in both fishing and surfing. With a little luck of the Irish, and this good-luck charm, you might be so fortunate to meet a woman like this.

Scientific Name: Santalum ellipticum

Also Known As: Sandalwood

Endemic

Description: Large bushy shrubs or trees up to 15 feet tall, but usually 4 to 8 feet tall, with elliptical, pale, green-blue leaves and fragrant flower clusters that are light green with hints of salmon or orange. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into round fruits that ripen to a dark purple and have a single hard seed within. The most appealing feature is its sweet-smelling heartwood, which retains the sandalwood fragrance for a long time.

Distribution: Four species of sandalwood are endemic to Hawaii, with even more subspecies. This particular species is found on all the main islands, mostly in low coastal regions, although it no longer grows on Kahoolawe. One natural plant on the Big Island does grow at above 6,000 feet.

Cultural Uses: The sweet-smelling wood of ‘iliahi is used to scent kapa, and the flower clusters can be used in leis.

Extra Info: Sandalwood was one of Hawaii’s first exports. Trading was founded in 1791 by Capt. John Kendrick of Boston and lasted until about 1840, when the sandalwood was pretty much wiped out. It is estimated that ‘iliahi sold for about $125 per ton and that the industry made close to $4 million.

Hawaiians were forced into labor, so the clearing of ‘iliahi not only hurt the population of the plant, but also the morale of the people. There is even documentation of the labor being so brutal that family members would actually pull out young sandalwood plants so that their loved ones wouldn’t have to do it in the future.

Scientific Name: Wilkesia gymnoxiphium

Also Known As: Kaua’i Greensword

Endemic: Kaua’i Only

Description: Erect, normally unbranched rosette shrubs 3-10 ft. tall with long, narrow, green leaves and slightly fragrant, cream colored flowers arranged in heads of 40-350 on a stalk that protrudes above the whole plant. Towards the evening, this plant (not the flowers) is known to give off a slight, but pleasant scent, closely resembling that of a white ginger flower. Undeniably, one of the most intriguingly exotic looking plants native to Hawaii. It should be said that this plant is related to the silverswords (read the info. below) and just like those plants, these plants take at least 7 years to flower and once they do….. they die. But, the bloom is definitely worth the wait and the eventual outcome.

Distribution: This rare plant is endemic to the dry-mesic forests of Waimea Canyon on the island of Kaua’i and nowhere else in the world. Another, even more rare species called W. hobdyi is also found on Kaua’i but it has a smaller stature, slightly broader leaves and less flowering heads than this species

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant does best in full sun and dry soil, watering only 2-3 times a week for the first month and then only when needed after that. One of the biggest mistakes people do is over-water and this plant does not like to be continuously wet. It also keeps well in a pot and can be kept in a sunny location on your lanai if you choose, Very few bugs, if any, are known to bother this plant, rarely aphids or spider mites may bother it but they can be treated with a store bought pesticide or just shot off with a hose.

Additional Info: Iliau is closely related to the Silver swords of Maui and Hawai’i and is therefore a member of the “Silver sword Alliance” in which three different genera (Argyroxiphium, Dubautia and Wilkesia) comprising some 28 species were derived from a single common ancestor. This is an example of an evolutionary term called ‘Adaptive Radiation’ in which a single pioneer species rapidly evolves in to many different species that occupy various types of habitats. Our native Honeycreeper birds (Drepanidae) are also fine examples of this Hawaiian evolutionary trend

Scientific Name: Plumbago zeylanica

Indigenous: All HI

Description: A low sprawling shrub with long stems, light green foliage and clusters of bluish white flowers that emerge at the stem tips. Once the flowers are pollinated, small, cigar shaped fruits that are slightly sticky will begin to develop.

Distribution: This plant is indigenous meaning that it is native to Hawaii as well as other parts of the world. In Hawaii, it is found on all the main islands in the lowland dry forest all the way down to the coast in either the full hot sun or as the understory in disturbed areas dominated by alien plants like koa haole and or kiawe

Landscape Use and Care: ‘Ilie’e is the perfect ground cover plant. As in the wild it is often found thriving in the full sun and in the shade, in the landscape it does the same and looks great planted under other trees or under the eves of houses in partial shade as well as in the full sun, although you will have more flowers if the plant is in the sun. It requires little watering to become established, every other day is fine for initial establishment but once that has happened it will hardly need it at all. ’Ilie’e also seems resistant to most pests and diseases. I have seen spider and flat mites on them but very rarely.

Cultural Uses: The sap of ’Ilie’e is used by Hawaiians to blacken tattoos.

Additional Info: In other places of the world where this plant is also native, the seeds were probably dispersed by sticking on to large grazing land mammals. In Hawaii however, the islands evolved without any of these large land mammals, instead, giant flightless birds like geese most likely played this role.

Scientific Name: Sida fallax

Also Known As: Black Coral

Distribution: ’Ilima is a common shrub or ground cover found on the coast and on up into the dry and mesic forest of all the Hawaiian Islands, this particular variety is found more in the mesic forests of Kaua’i and O’ahu. Other than that, ‘ilima is classified as an indigenous plant so that means it is native to Hawai’i as well as other parts of the world.

Description: There are many different varieties of ‘ilima in Hawai’i. On the coast, ‘Ilima papa (flat ‘ilima) grows prostrate, perhaps up to a foot tall, while others in dry and mesic forests grow into bushes up to four to six feet or so. All have rounded green leaves with serrated margins but the mountain varieties tend to have more of a pointed apex on the leaf tip. Some coastal varieties have leaves that are covered with extremely soft, velvet-like hairs which are actually an evolutionary adaptation to reflect sunlight and prevent the plant from drying out but are really nice to touch. Their flowers for which they are most known for are about an inch in diameter and a rich orange hue, they are also very soft but at the same time very fragile.

Landscape use: This plant makes an attractive low hedge or can be left alone as a specimen plant. Plant it in full sun to achieve maximum number of flowers and water less after plant shows signs of new growth. This will help the plant stay more bushier and not so leggy. Less watering will also increase the velvety look of the leaves and help keep the bugs away. ‘Ilima generally likes dry and hot conditions. Few pests are know to attack ‘Ilima, occasionally white fly may be found on the undersides of the leaves or aphids on the new leaves, a quick wash with a mild soap solution should help or following the label on a store bought pesticide for white fly and aphids will also work.

Cultural Uses: The flowers of ‘Ilima can be strung into lei and they are also used as a mild laxative for babies.

Additional Info: Today, ‘Ilima is known as the island flower of Oahu and is still strung into lei, but what people don’t realize is that you can add the flowers to your salads, they add great color taste pretty good too. Make sure you pop out the flower from the calyx which is the little green cup at the base of the petals, just roll the calyx in between your fingers and the flower should pop right out. Don’t eat the flowers if you sprayed the plant with pesticides. If you did, read the label of the pesticide to see if you can eat from the plant after spraying and how long you should wait before you do.

Scientific Name: Sida fallax

Also Known As: Groundcover Ilima

Indigenous: All HI

Description: Prostrate plants with pale green leaves, woody stems and bright orange flowers. There are many different varieties of ‘ilima, although they have the same botanical name, morphologically they appear quite different. Some types grow into bushes while others, like this one, lay flat. Even leaves and flowers may look different between dissimilar varieties.

Distribution: Naturally, ‘ilima papa is found on all the Hawaiian islands and many other places in the Pacific. All grow near the ocean in what is called the “strand vegetation” zone. Here the plants are exposed to extremely harsh conditions such as salt spray, wind, intense sun and heat, and drought. Because of this, the plants that occupy this vegetation zone have generally the same physical characteristics as mentioned above.

Landscape Use and Care: Plant ‘ilima papa as a ground cover anywhere that has full sun, is pretty dry and has non-clay soil. Space the plants about 1-1/2 to 2 feet apart. Do not over water. The best thing to do is to soak the ground and not water again until the soil has completely dried out. If you water too much, you’ll notice that the plants won’t be as prostrate and will get quite tall, especially if planted too close. Eventually the leaves will start to yellow, even drupe, which is a sign often mistaken for drying out so people add more water to the already drowning plant. If you notice this happening to your plant feel the soil first, if it’s still moist let it dry out. Bugs that sometimes feed on this plant are mealy bugs that are usually brought by ants, and whiteflies. Get rid of the ants with granular pesticide and treat the plant with any store bought pesticide that specifically kills mealy bugs and whiteflies. Slugs and snails also like to live under ground covers so if you know your area has slugs or snails (the big African kine, not the endangered Hawaiian kine) treat the area with slug and snail bait.

Uses: ‘Ilima is the island flower of O’ahu and is used to make lei ‘ilima. The flowers can also be used as a mild laxative for babies. You can even put some in your tossed salad to add nice color by pinching them out of their calyxes (the small green cup that the petals emerge from), don’t worry about it being a laxative, it only works for babies. You would have to eat half a lei to make it work for adults but if you need to go then just keep pickin’. I’ve even used the flowers as a garnish for sashimi, it looks nice and tastes way better than parsley.

Scientific Name: Colocasia esculenta

Polynesian introduced

Description: There are numerous varieties of kalo in Hawaii. Some records report over 300 different types of cultivars! So although these plants are listed as Polynesian introductions each cultivar is unique to Hawaii. Size varies anywhere from two to five feet or more depending on how rich the soil is and how lucky you can get, colors and patterns vary greatly as well with some plants having just plain green leaves like your typical lehua variety to some having variegated green and white patterns like the ‘elepaio variety or even purple and green patterns like the ‘uahiapele variety. Stem color varies as well with anything from white, pink, red, green, black or even black with green stripes! Even leaf shape varies between cultivars, all have a general heart shape to them but some have deeper cleavage than others (piko varieties) and some are even cupped up like a bowl (‘apuwai).

Distribution: a Polynesian introduction at one time found on all the main islands wherever people inhabited. Sometimes entire valleys were terraced with lo’i (Taro Patches) to support the cultivation of kalo.

Cultural Uses: Probably the single most important plant in Hawaiian culture. All parts of the plant except for the stem are eaten. The leaves can be steamed and cooked for making lau lau and lu’au, while the corm is cooked for making table kalo (cooked corm cut into bite sized chunks and kulolo (a Hawaiian desert made with cooked kalo, coconut milk and sugar) or painstakingly pounded into poi which is the main staple of the Hawaiian diet. It had a prominent place in Hawaiian mythology and religious rituals. Some varieties made dye while others were used for gluing kapa together. It was also used as bait for ‘opelu a type of island mackerel.

Landscape Uses and Care: All varieties make great accents and are very ornamental. You can even make your own kalo patch in your yard to harvest from. When you initially plant kalo you will notice that the plant will become very large and stay that way for a couple of months but then slowly start to shrink, this means that the corm is ready to be harvested, which is usually anywhere from 8-12 months after planting. You should even be able to see the corm emerging up from the ground with little ‘keiki’ coming out the sides. Its important to harvest the plant every 8-12 months, cut off about 7/8ths of the corm and the the leaves then stick the remaining stem with the 1/8 corm back in the ground to start the growing cycle all over again.

Tasty Tid-Bit: The kalo plant is often referred to as the brother of all Hawaiians since it sprouted out of the grave of Haloa.

Scientific Name: Eragrostis variabilis

Endemic: All HI including most of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Description: A perennial clumping grass with long, slender, bluish-green leaf blades that reach over two feet in length. When in bloom, a panicle of tiny flowers will protrude up on a stalk which displays them. Sometimes the flowers cluster together tightly other times they are more open as in the picture above.

Distribution: This is an endemic grass found in many dry opens spaces like sand dunes and grass lands to rocky cliffs and ridges from sea level to over 3000 ft. in elevation on all of the Hawaiian Islands including the Northwestern ones.

Cultural Uses: Many chants and hula refer to this plant for the way it moves and flows in the wind, similar to that of a graceful hula dancer.

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant is excellent for slopes and hillsides in large quantities to reduce erosion. The fibrous roots help to bind the soil together to reduce surface runoff. Individually, they look nice planted around rocks which will help to add contrast and show off the beautiful color of the blades. This plant is great for xeriscape gardens being that it requires little if any water once established in the ground. Few pests are known to bother this plant as well.

Extra Info: Kawelu also goes by the names ‘emoloa or kalamalo.

Scientific Name: Cordyline fruticosa

Polynesian Introduction

Description: Shrub (6-10ft.) with large green leaves and few branches.

Distribution: A Polynesian introduction now grown extensively. Naturalized in mesic forests and valleys, often in secondary Hala forests.

Cultural Uses: Leaves: thatch, food wrappers, hula skirts, sandals. The sweet roots were baked and eaten or used to make an alcoholic beverage called ‘okolehao.

Landscape Uses and Care: Can be used as a specimen plant or for hedges. Does fine in full sun or partial shade in wind protected areas. Dark leaves provide a great backdrop for lighter/brighter colored plants.

Additional Info: There are many cultivars and varieties of ki today but only the plant described here is considered the Hawaiian variety.

Scientific Name: Saccharum officinarum

Polynesian Introduced: All HI

Description: There are many varieties or cultivars of Ko that were developed by Hawaiians. Generally, they are large grasses with hard stems (stalks) and long blades. This plant can reach heights of up to 15 feet tall. Its most attractive feature is its stalk, which range in color from light yellow (Ko Kea) to dark red (Ko Honua Ula). Many varieties have different striped combinations like maroon and green (Ko Manulele) or yellow pink and green (Ko Halali’i), all of which are very striking.

Varieties of Hawaiian sugar cane were hybridized with introduced ones to produce the type that was grown commerically here. Plantations started in the early 1800s, when people came from all over the world to work in them, resulting in the Hawaii’s diversity.

Distribution:Ko was brought to Hawaii by early Polynesian settlers and is termed a Polynesian introduction. It originates in southern Asia or Malaysia. In Hawaii, many varieties were cultivated on all the islands, but today they mainly exist in botanical gardens.

Landscape use and care:Ko thrives best in full sun and daily watering is recommended but not necessary. Due to its appearance, Ko is a great accent plant for any garden, the Ko variety Honua’ula stands out especially because of its dark red stalk and leaf blades.

Cultural uses:Ko has many uses in Hawaiian culture, most importantly as a sweetener. Juice was extracted from the fibrous stalk and used to sweeten dessert puddings and to make medicines more palatable. Children were also encouraged to chew the sweet stalk to strengthen their teeth and gums.

The juice of certain varieties were used as a love potion to induce the love of another person, while other varieties were used to block that love spell.

The blades were also used for house thatching when the more preferred pili grass was not available.

Scientific Name: Acacia koa

Endemic: All HI except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau

Description: These are large trees that on other islands, mainly on Kaua’i, Maui and Hawai’i that can reach over 100 ft. tall. It is easily distinguished by its light colored, flattened out, sickle shaped, modified stems (which look like its’ leaves). These special stems called phyllodes are packed with chlorophyll and take the place of its true leaves in more mature plants. When a seedling, the koa plant has bipinnate compound leaves, much like its other non-native cousin the koa haole.

Distribution: This endemic plant is often dominant in dry-wet forests on all of the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe. On O’ahu, koa is now restricted to mesic forests usually above 1000-1500 ft. It was probably found much lower than that in the past.

Landscape Use: Koa trees are beautiful shade trees for the landscape and should be used more often. People always have the misconception that koa can only grow in high elevation areas but that is completly false. We have one planted in Waimanalo at maybe 30ft. above sea level and its doing great! Another misconception is that it will become too large. Yes, naturally koa can be a very large tree, but, those trees are hundreds of years old! Still people plant much larger and faster growing trees like monkeypod or albezias. Generally, the koa trees in landscapes will be about 20-30 ft. tall. Koa is also very easy to take care of and requires little watering once established in the ground. The only pests you should worry about are stem borers. If you see a stem or branch beginning to dry out, immediately cut it off to prevent the bug from boring deeper into the plant.

Additional Info: Koa wood is highly valued and is used to make numerous items from canoes to hair picks. Today, because of increasing rarity in native plants, perhaps we should find alternative (non-native) trees to make our belongings out of. Instead of chopping down a Koa, ‘Ohi’a , Lama, or some other native tree, why not make something out of an invasive alien tree like java plum, cook pine, kiawe or strawberry guava, all of which have beautiful wood also! By doing this you help eradicate invasive aliens doing your part to preserve Hawai’i’s native forest treasures.

Scientific Name: Acacia koai’a

Endemic: All HI.

Description: A tree with the same physical resemblance to Koa but only smaller (up to 15 ft.). It has the same sickle shaped foliage, which aren’t actually leaves but modified stems called phyllodes. It also has harder, more dense wood and longer, narrower seed pods with a different arrangement of seeds. Some sources list this tree as a variety of Koa while others separate it into its own species.

Distribution: Much less abundant than Koa. Only found on Maui, Molokai, Kaua’i, Lanai, and Big Island in very restricted populations. There is also a single plant thought to still exist on O’ahu. Often found in more dry open areas.

Cultural Uses: The very hard wood of this small tree is used to make many useful tools including kapa anvils and spears. The name koai’a comes from combining the two words koa (like the koa tree) and i’a (fish), since the wood from this plant was used to make fish hooks but more specifically due to its durability, shark hooks.

Landscape Uses and Care: Use as a specimen tree any where with lots of sun. Requires little watering and is a beautiful small tree. Because of where it is found naturally, many people prefer to use this tree, rather than Koa, in drier low elevation areas. Due to its durability, beauty, cultural significance and size, koai’a has the potential to be a very successful landscape tree. Only its rarity is preventing it from being as popular as it should be. Hopefully as more people become native plant enthusiasts, that downfall will change.

Additional Info: Another name for Koaia is Koai’e. This may be due to the fact that this plant was used to make kapa beaters which are called i’e kuku. So it’s the type of Koa used to make i’e, hence the name Koai’e.

Scientific Name: Hibiscus kokio subsp. st.johnianus

Native Hawaiian Shrub – Endemic – Rare

Description: Ok, if you can find a more beautiful Hibiscus species than this one I gotta see it to believe it. I don’t know what it is about this flower that draws me to it but it is truly a spectacular event to witness. And don’t think that I’m over exaggerating when I say event because once you see it you count the days before the next flower bud blooms, trust me, other people that own this plant tell me the same thing. In fact someone just told me that they saw this flower blooming in the store from a distance and had to walk across the garden department just to see it up close. It drew her in, spell bounded by its beauty. This is a gorgeous shrub that is generally 4-10 ft tall. It has dark glossy green leaves with some varieties having reddish petioles that connect the leaves to the stem. But of course the most distinguishing feature of this plant is its amazing flowers. By far I feel they are the most striking of hibiscus, it has bright orange to orange red flowers that are so vivid, they almost look fluorescent.

Distribution: In the wild this rare endemic subspecies of Hibiscus kokio (typically a red hibiscus) is only found in the coastal valleys of Northwestern Kaua’i and nowhere else in the world. I’ve seen these plants growing in the wild and they stand out so much against any backdrop they almost look fake and as if they don’t belong when in fact they do.

Cultural Uses: Flowers used in lei as well as for a laxative. Ironic how something so beautiful is used to make something so un-beautiful (and I’m not talking about the lei).

Landscape Uses and Care: Whether used as a hedge or specimen plant, the St. John’s Hibiscus makes a wonderful addition to any garden. It responds very well to pruning and requires little water once established in the ground. Like all hibiscus, keep an eye out for the usual pests like aphids, whitefly and mealy bugs but don’t let them discourage you from getting one you’ll be more sorry if you don’t get to experience the flowers for yourself.

Additional Informational: The Hibiscus st. johnianus is a highly variable plant. Flower colors range from dark orange-red to bright orange-yellow and there is even pure yellow variety which is extremely rare. Outside of our state flower the endangered ma’ohauhele (Hibiscus brackenridgei), this is the only other pure yellow native hibiscus. Although hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) is also considered to be a yellow flowered native hibiscus, it’s flowers are not pure yellow since it has a large maroon center and the whole flower tends to turn pink-orange as the day goes on, the two above stay true to their yellow color until they fall off the plant.

Scientific Name: Hibiscus waimeae

Endemic: Kauai

Description: Unreal shrubs or small trees up to 15 ft. tall but usually stay in the 5-8 foot range. These plants have light green foliage which is densely pubescent on the underside and less pubescent on top which makes the underside an even lighter green. The most attractive feature of this plant is its beautiful white and also fragrant flowers which emerge at the tips of branches. In the morning, the flowers open up and are a brilliant white and by the end of two days they slowly fade to a light pink and begin to close up before falling off. The petals of this hibiscus are very robust and thick which enable it to stay open for so long and which also adds to it’s stronger than normal fragrance. The staminal column is reddish pink which makes it stand out against the white petal background but it is shorter and more robust than other native whites.

Distribution: This rare native white hibiscus is endemic to the dry forests of Waimea Canyon on the island of Kaua’i and is found nowhere else in the world.

Landscape Use: As with most hibiscuses, the koki’o kea can be trimmed into a beautiful, highly colorful hedge or left alone to be admired as a specimen plant. It is very wind, sun and drought tolerant and is resistant to the unattractive bumps from gall mites that seem to plague most hybrid hibiscus. This is yet another perfect native plant for the xeriscape garden, or any garden for that matter. Hint: plant this plant in front of a dark background like a rock wall or ti hedge to really show off the flowers! Watch out for aphids and whitefly, if you do notice them treat the plant by either shooting them off with a water hose or spraying them with pesticide. If you follow the directions on the bottle you should have good results.

Cultural Uses: The flowers of Hibiscus were eaten as a laxative and some sources say that the native red hibiscus were eaten by girls and women while the white hibiscus were eaten by boys and men. In addition the flowers were also strung into lei but today it is most often put behind the ear.

Additional Info: The native white hibiscuses, which include Hibiscus arnottianus (found on O’ahu and Moloka’i) and this species H. waimeae, are the only fragrant hibiscuses in the world. Of the ones listed above, this flower is the most fragrant, making it—- The most naturally fragrant hibiscus in the WORLD. Sweet! An endangered subspecies of this plant H. waimeae subsp. hannerae is also found on Kaua’I and has a much smaller flower but is still quite fragrant.

Scientific Name: Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. immaculatus

Endemic – Endagered

Description: This much-sought-after shrub can reach the height of a 15-foot tree but usually stays in the 5- to 8-foot range. It has light green leaves that are large compared with the typical Hibiscus waimeae, but its flowers are one-fifth the size of its more common relative. They do have one thing in common: the color and scent of their flowers. Both are bright white with a light pink stamen, with a slight fragrance.

Another attractive feature is that the flowers emerge at the tips of the branches, allowing them to stand out, as small as they are. They bloom a brilliant white and, by the end of two days, slowly fade to light pink and begin to close. It is definitely the cutest of all the native hibiscus, makes beautiful leis and fits perfectly behind the ear. It’s ideal for those who want to wear a flower but not a giant hibiscus that appears as though the flower is wearing them.

Distribution: This rare subspecies of native white hibiscus is endemic to the wetter forests in the northern and northwestern valleys of Kauai and nowhere else in the world.

Cultural Uses: The flowers can be eaten as a laxative. Some say that the native red hibiscus was eaten by girls and women, while the white was eaten by boys and men.

Landscape Uses and Care: As with most hibiscuses, the Koki’o ke’oke’o can be trimmed into a beautiful and colorful hedge, but I think it looks better as a stand-alone plant to be admired from all directions.

It can handle full sun quite well but does best in partially shaded areas with filtered sunlight. Hint: Plant it in front of a dark background — such as a rock wall or ti hedge — to really show off the flowers!

Watch out for aphids and whiteflies. Either shoot them off with a water hose or spray them with pesticide. You should have good results if you follow the directions on the bottle.

Additional Information: The native white hibiscuses, which include Hibiscus arnottianus (found on Oahu and Molokai) and this species, H. waimeae, are the only naturally fragrant hibiscuses in the world.

Scientific Name: Hibiscus kokio

Endemic: All HI except Niihau and Kahoolawe

Description: A typical hibiscus shrub (4-10 ft. tall) with extremely glossy, dark green leaves and small red hibiscus flowers.

Distribution: This species is found sparingly in the dry-wet forests of all the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant makes good for a hedge or specimen plant for your garden. It prefers full sun to partial shade and does best in well drained soil. Few pests bother this plant except for the occasional white-fly or aphid. Store bought pesticides should control the problem should it arise. Every other day watering is sufficient.

Cultural Uses: The flowers of this plant were used as a mild laxative and as a dye.

Additional Info: This species as well as Hibiscus clayi are the only types of red hibiscus that are native. All of the other red hibiscus that are seen in landscapes are introduced and/or are hybrid cultivars.

Scientific Name: Myrsine lessertiana

Also Known As: Kolea lau nui

Endemic: All of HI except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe

Description: Stunning trees or large shrubs reaching heights of up to 25 ft. tall. They have extremely glossy, light green leaves that when they are young (liko) are colored brilliantly pink. This is one of the most beautiful sites to see in the wild (or in the landscape) when all of the branch tip buds are starting to show new signs of growth and the tree is covered in pink. The flowers are small, green with purple tinges and emerge from woody knobs along the branches. Once the flowers are pollinated they develop into tiny black fruit about ¼” across.

Distribution: This endemic tree is normally found in mesic to wet forest and sometimes in subalpine shrubland from 600ft. to over 6000ft. in elevation on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

Cultural Uses: The strong wood of kolea is used for posts and beams in the construction of hale as well as to make the anvil for beating kapa, while the red sap of the plant is used to make a red dye and the wood charcoal a black dye.

Landscape Uses and Care: These trees deserve to be grown more and incorporated into more landscapes. Their beauty alone is enough reason but also to help preserve the plant from becoming increasingly rare. Water daily to help establish the plant easier, then reduce watering to about 2 times a week once signs of active growth begin to show. Few pests bother kolea lau nui but be careful when transplanting because it doesn’t like it when its roots are bothered too much. Right now this plant is available at Hui Ku Maoli Ola native plant nursery in 3 gallon pots for $45.

Extra Info: Studies have shown that early Hawaiian settlements in Waimanalo, O’ahu which date back close to 450 A.D. have fire pits with the charcoal of kolea lau nui within them. This shows that the plant grew much lower in elevation back then, then it does today. I don’t think a Hawaiian person would walk up to 600 ft. elevation in Waimanalo (which would be half way up the pali face) just for fire wood or carry down large logs of kolea lau nui to the ocean to burn it to make dye. The only other reasonable explanation would be that it grew close enough to gather dry wood to make a fire which would put it way closer to sea level than current populations today.

Scientific Name: Myrsine sandwicense

Endemic: O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui and Hawai’i

Description: Beautiful shrubs or small trees up to 20 ft. tall with small elliptical leaves that cluster up toward the stem tips. Like all kolea, the young leaves, called liko, are bright pink and add tremendous color to the plant. Small yellow flowers tinged with red and purple emerge from small woody knobs along the length of the branch. Once these are pollinated they develop in to tiny black fruit about ¼” in diameter.

Distribution: Kolea lau li’i is endemic to the islands of O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui and Hawaii. It primarily occurs in wet forest and bogs but can occasionally be found in mesic forests.

Cultural Uses: The bright yellow-green liko with purple mid-vein and margins are highly sought after to make lei. Liko lehua is not the only type of liko that looks good in lei kolea lau li’i is right there next to it.

Landscape Uses and Care: If you are ever able to get your hands on one of these plants get it, plain and simple. They do however require regular watering at least three times a week even once established in the ground. These plants are a little more finicky than most and they are very slow growing so don’t be disappointed if its not growing as quick as you would like, that’s just how it is. Rich, well drained soil is best for this one.

Scientific Name: Lysimachia hillebrandii

Endemic: Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui

Description: A Sprawling shrub with dark green, oval leaves that have a pointed apex. New leaves tend to cluster toward the top of the stems, then later spacing out as the plant grows. The new braches as well as the veins on leaves are pinkish-red, then as the branch becomes older it will eventually turn woody. The flowers of this plant are most striking. They hang facing downward on stems that extend out past the leaves. Each flower is about 3/4″ in diameter and is light maroon in color with dark maroon veins on each petal. I’ve seen individual branches with over twenty flowers on them and they look awesome! The flowers will stay on the plant and don’t lose there beauty for about a week, sometimes even longer! Although this is a general description of this plant, don’t be surprised if you see something different when hiking, they are highly variable, especially in leaf shape, leaf orientation and size, pretty much the only thing static are its flowers. There are also a couple of other native Lysimachia that resemble this species found in the same type of habitat so you really have to know your stuff in order to distinguish them from one another.

Distribution: This plant is not commonly seen but is usually found in open areas of mesic to wet forests on the islands of Kaua’i, O’ahu, Molokai, Lana’i and Maui.

Cultural Use: The longevity and unmatched beauty of the flowers make this an ideal plant for lei making.

Landscape Use and Care: If you are fortunate enough to have one of these plants for yourself they look great just about anywhere. I suggest planting them in front of some sort of dark backdrop like a rock wall, green ti hedge, or hapu’u ferns so that the flowers really stand out when blooming. These plants prefer full sun to partial shade with daily watering in well drained soil. Few pests tend to bother this plant although I have seen scale and aphids on them from time to time. These bugs can be controlled either by applying a systemic pesticide like Orthene or the more technical way of smooshing them with your fingers. Often ants bring the scales and aphids to the plants to harvest a sugary substance that is consumed for food, so once you smoosh the bugs, look around for the ants and get rid of them or else they will just bring back more scales and aphids and turn you into a bug smooshing machine.

Additional Info: The way kolokolo kuahiwi grows is very similar to that of another more common coastal native plant called pohinahina (Vitex rotundifolia), both are sprawling shrubs. But what you may not know is that another name for pohinahina is kolokolo kahakai. Kolokolo means to crawl, which is how the plants grow, they crawl along the ground. The second words are locality descriptors, kahakai meaning beach and kuahiwi meaning mountain.

Scientific Name: Bidens amplectans; B. menziesii; B. torta

Endemic

Description: Small shrubs usually 3 to 4 feet tall with dark green serrated leaves and many bright yellow flowers. The flower of this species is unique compared with other native species within the same genus.

For one, they are very large, usually 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Most other species in the genus (with the exception of B. cosmoides and B. valida) have smaller flowers. Second, the flowers have a pleasant fragrance similar to that of carnations. I’m unaware of any other native Bidens that possess that type of fragrance, if any at all.

Distribution: This endemic plant is found only on the Mokuleia side of the Waianae Mountains on the island of Oahu, usually on rocky cliffs either exposed to the sun or as an understory plant.

Cultural Uses: Like other ko’oko’olau, this species can also be used to make tea. Pick the fresh leaves (flowers are OK, too), wash them off and boil them in water. No need to dry the leaves first – fresh leaves are healthier and they taste better. Pick enough leaves and flowers to cover the surface of the water in whatever size pot you are using, and enjoy!

Landscape Uses and Care: This native Hawaiian plant is usually short-lived, lasting about one to two years, but will generally have new plants come up from fallen seeds. Because of its profuse bloom, it should be displayed in an area where it is easily visible, perhaps with a dark background like a rock wall or ti leaf hedge.

Few pests bother this plant, but other members of the genus are somewhat affected by mites and spittle bugs.

These should be treated either by spraying manually with water (soapy water is OK) or with an organic pesticide. Since this plant is used to make tea, don’t use any harsh chemicals, especially systemic pesticides, to treat for bugs. Daily watering is fine but not required, and full sun/partial shade is best.

Scientific Name: Abutilon menziesii

Also Known As: Red ‘Illima

Endangered

Description: The dense shrubs grow 4 to 8 feet tall with light green foliage. Leaves and branches are somewhat velvety to the touch. The plant’s most appealing feature is its flowers which range from dark maroon to bright yellow, and can be strung into stunning lei.The downturned flowers look very much like miniature Hibiscus flowers.

Landscape Use and Care: Full sun and minimal water

Additional Information: The endangered status is a result of this plant’s natural habitat has been reduced to 5% in the entire state of Hawaii.

Scientific Name: Abutilon menziesii

Description: The dense shrubs grow 4 to 8 feet tall with light green foliage. Leaves and branches are somewhat velvety to the touch. The plant’s most appealing feature is its flowers which range from dark maroon to bright yellow, and can be strung into stunning lei. The flowers, which are about 1- to 1-1/2 inches wide, emerge from the leaf axis and hang upside down. Flowers, sometimes hundreds of them simultaneously, bloom throughout the year. If enough flowers are gathered, a subtle, but sweet fragrance is noticeable.

Distribution: This native Hawaiian plant is found sparingly in dry forests of Lanai, East Maui, and the Big Island. A previously undocumented population was discovered in 1981 in an abandoned sugarcane field in Ewa, on Oahu.

Landscape Uses and Care: This is a definite must-have for any plant collector or weekend warrior gardener. Ko’oloa’ula thrives in full sun and dry areas. Watering is OK, but it is best to soak the ground and avoid watering again until the soil dries completely.

If your garden is prone to rose beetles, place this plant in an area that is lighted at night. This should prevent any damage this pest might cause.

Scientific Name: Coprosma ernodeoides

Endemic: Maui and Hawai’i

Description: Very cool looking low sprawling shrubs, which in most cases look like ground covers. Although the main look of the plant is herbaceous, to the touch it is very stiff and rigid. Tough, tiny leaves that are triangular in shape cover the thick stems. Small, creamy yellowish-white flowers develop from within the leave axis and when pollinated form numerous shiny black fruit from which this plant is named. Yup, if you haven’t figured it out already, kukaenene means nene poop. Not for the smell, but for the look. Each tiny fruit kinda looks like a black licorice jellybean which also happens to look like the droppings of nene birds. What’s even more interesting is that these fruits are one of the favorite foods of the nene.

Distribution: In the wild this plant is usually found in the sub-alpine forests of Haleakala on Maui and on the Big Island in open lava fields anywhere between 3000-7000 ft. in elevation.

Landscape Use: Surprisingly, even though this plant found at such high elevations it does amazingly well at our nursery in Kane’ohe on O’ahu at about 100 ft. elevation. It looks great planted around larger landscaping stones. Plant kukaenene in full sun with well drained soil, it has few pests and needs very little water to thrive. It also does great as a potted plant for your Lanai.

Cultural Uses: There are no known uses of this plant culturally but it is an important component to the ecology of the upper dry forests and sub-alpine regions of Maui and Hawaii. It is crucial to protect this plant’s habitat not only for the plant itself but for other animals like the endangered nene goose, our state bird, which depend on it and other native plants so greatly.

Additional Info: Other names that this plant goes by include: ‘aiakanene, leponene, nene, and punene.

Scientific Name: Aleurites mollucana

Also Known As: Candlenut Tree

Polynesian Introduction: All of HI except Kaho’olawe

Description: Large trees up to 60 feet tall easily distinguished from far distances by its light green foliage. Also recognizable are its distinct leaf shapes, beautiful flower clusters and familiar fruit. Honestly, if you don’t easily recognize kukui by now, you need to get out more.

Distribution: This is a Polynesian introduced tree now naturalized and becoming increasingly invasive on all of the main islands in the mesic forests from sea level to about 2000 ft. in elevation.

Cultural Uses: One of the most used plants in Hawaiian culture, nearly every part of the kukui had a use. Primarily the seeds were strung on a palm midrib and burned to make candles hence the name candlenut tree. In addition the juice from the husk of the fruit was used to make a black dye while the bark around the roots made a similar dye for canoes. Tree resins and sap were used medicinally and for glue while the nuts were roasted and made into a delicious relish called ‘inamona. The seeds, leaves and flowers can also be made in to lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: Kukui can get big so make sure you allow for lots of room around this tree. It is extremely easy to grow having few pests if any and needing hardly any water once established in the ground. Just make sure to pick up as many of the fallen seeds as possible or else they’ll germinate all over your garden.

Extra Info: Because we have become so technologically advanced here in Hawai’i we no longer use kukui as much as we used to so now it is becoming more and more dominant in our mesic forests often shading and crowding out a lot of other native plants that would have otherwise thrived there. We need to get back to our roots and continue to use kukui as we did in the past primarily so that it won’t out compete its native neighbors but also to continue to preserve our cultural history.

Scientific Name: Nototrichium sandwicense

Endemic: All HI

Description: The kulu’i pictured here is the form that comes from Kaua’i. The underside, margins and veins of the leaves are extremely pubescent. In addition, the veins, stem tips and new leaf buds are tinged with pink. As a result, they shimmer and shine silvery-pink sparkles in the sun. The more sun it receives, the shinier the plant becomes. This kulu’i’s foliage is also very dense and the plant can reach a height of up to 4-7 ft. The flowers emerge in dangling spike clusters, 1-2 inches long that resemble teardrops.

Distribution: This endemic species is found in the dry forest on all the main islands from sea level to above two thousand feet elevation, however like stated earlier, this particular variety is restricted to the island of Kaua’i. It should also be noted that not only is it an endemic species, but the genus is endemic as well, making it even more unique to Hawai’i.

Landscape Use and Care: Kulu’i is very easy to grow and take care of. Full sun and a good water soaking twice a week will make it look its best: compact, full and shiny. You may notice that when given too much water or not enough sun, the leaves will become larger, more green looking, and not as shiny. This also makes the plant look more ‘leggy’ and not as full. Naturally the plant is very bushy, but pruning it will make it even bushier. Kulu’i can also be shaped into a nice, thick hedge. Few pests bother this plant, but if you have a lot of ants, they may bring mealy bugs and scales. If you notice this, get rid of the ants first, if the other pests still remain you can either cut the plant back to remove them or spray pesticides or even do both if the problem is really bad.

Cultural Uses: The flower spikes and new leaves look great in head leis or flower arrangements.

Scientific Name: Nephrolepis cordifolia

Indigenous: All HI

Description: A type of sword fern with erect fronds standing 1-2 ft. tall and 2-3 inches wide. Each frond is comprised of many smaller pinnae (frondlets), each about 1-11/2 inches long and about ¼ inch wide. Generally, these ferns are terrestrial meaning that their stolons (sprawling stems of ferns, which look like roots) spread out across the surface of the dirt but occasionally they will be epiphytic, crawling up trees or tree ferns. The most distinguishing characteristic of this fern is that it is the only species of Nephrolepis in Hawaii to have underground tubers that develop on the stolons which serve as food storage as well as a means to reproduce since new ferns will develop from it.

Distribution: This indigenous fern is found throughout the tropics and is a common fern in cultivation. Here in Hawaii it is fairly common and found on all the main islands in mesic (somewhat wet) to wet forests.

Cultural Use: It was often used to decorate hula altars symbolizing that it was a place of learning, or sprouting knowledge since the word kupu means to sprout. The fronds are also used for making lei.

Landscape Use and Care: Plant kupukupu in either full sun or partial shade. It looks great as an accent plant around landscape pohaku (stones) or planted as a mass groundcover, the only thing with that is to not plant them too close. Each fern should not be planted closer than 18 inches apart. This is because they can out-compete each other and eventually die back in a short amount of time. You can also plant them at the base of a rock wall and they will slowly crawl up the wall sprouting new ferns in various crevices. Daily watering is fine as long as they are planted in well drained soil. Don’t allow the fern to sit in standing water, it will start to turn yellow and defoliate often dying.

Additonal Info: There are at least five different species of Nephrolepis found here in the wild of these only two are native, this one described here and another larger species named Nephrolepis exaltata subsp. hawaiiensis which is an endemic subspecies. The other three are naturalized aliens species that can be very invasive. The problem with this is that they can and often will hybridize with the native species jeopardizing the genetic integrity of them.

Scientific Name: Diospyros sandwicensis

Also Known As: Hawaiian Ebony/Persimmon

Endemic: All HI except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau

Description: Small to medium sized trees, 5-40 ft. tall that has a dark brown bark and pale green foliage. New leaves, called liko, are a bright pinkish-orange and are very attractive. Their flowers are tiny, about 1/8″ in diameter, and emerge at the leaf axis. Once pollinated small, oval shaped fruit that are about an inch in length develop. The color of the fruits starts off green, then change to yellow, and finally either orange or red when ripe. Each fruit can contain from 1-3 seeds. One of the most appealing features of this plant is its heartwood. Being part of the ebony family, lama wood is very hard and can be polished to reveal its deep, dark luster. It is a very slow growing plant so be patient when you plant it in the ground.

Distribution: Lama is an endemic plant found predominantly in dry-mesic valleys and ridges, occasionally it is found in the wet forest as well. They are found near sea level all the way up to around 3,600 ft. in elevation on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except for Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

Cultural Uses: The wood of lama is used to decorate hula altars since its name is associated with enlightenment. The wood is also used to build houses for curing sick people as well as fence posts marking sacred areas.

Landscape Uses and Care: Lama can be a gorgeous tree if it is given the time to grow that large. It should be treated as a specimen plant for everyone to admire. Give it a lot of sun and not too much water. A good soaking 2-3 times a week should do. The only pests that really get to this plant are scales. Just keep an eye out for them and treat it like you would any other tree either by spraying with pesticide or wiping with fingers and soapy water. These plants are very hard to get right now in anything larger than a one gallon pot so please be patient if you decide to get one. However, we do have a few 5 gallon pots with plants that are over 3 ft tall available for $50. Don’t be discouraged by its slow growth, its beauty is well worth the wait and the slow growth results in the plant having one of the hardest and most beautiful wood of native trees.

Additional Info: There is another species of lama (D. hillebrandii) which is found only on the islands of O’ahu and Kaua’i, both are called either lama or elama.

Scientific Name: Sapindus oahuensis

Also Known As: Kaulu, Aulu (On Oahu)

Endemic: Kaua’i, O’ahu

Description: Stunning trees up to 45 ft. tall with dark, pale green leaves up to a foot long and three to four inches wide. The outer bark of lonomea is often a very light gray almost white color which adds great contrast to the leaves as well as any other dark background. The flowers are small and emerge on a skinny spike but the fruit are about two inches long, over an inch across and look like dried dates. Within the fruit is a large black, pear shaped seed that is somewhat rough in texture.

Distribution: This endemic tree is found only on the western side of Kaua’i and both the Wai’anae and Ko’olau mountains on O’ahu in dry to mesic forests.

Cultural Uses: The black and naturally glossy seeds of lonomea were often strung into lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: Plant lonomea wherever you want a nice shade tree. It is very easy to maintain, needs very little water and provides a great shelter from the blazing sun. Few pests bother lonomea and it will do best in well drained soil and full sun.

Extra Info: The name lonomea is only used for this plant on the island of Kaua’i, on O’ahu it goes by either kaulu or aulu.

Scientific Name: Pritchardia spp. P. hillebrandii, P. remota, P. schatauerii

Native Hawaiian Endemic, Uncommon to Endangered

Description: 19 different species of Loulu are native to the Hawaiian Islands. Depending on the species, they can be as short as 4 ft. to up to a 100 ft. tall.

Cultural Use: The seeds were a source of food for early Hawaiians. The trunks were used in construction, leaves used as umbrellas, thatching, and also in a cliff jumping/gliding game.

Landscape Uses and Care: Full Sun – Partial Shaded – Minimal Watering – Easy Care

Scientific Name: Caparis sandwichiana

Endemic: All HI as well as some of the Northwestern Islands

Description: Maiapilo is a small sprawling shrub with soft, light green leaves, fragrant white flowers and brittle stems. The large white flowers are extremely fragrant and look as though it is a cross between a rose and an ‘Ohi’a Lehua flower. Simply put, if you have a white rose and take out all the center petals and replace them with a white ‘Ohi’a lehua flower, you’ll have a maiapilo flower. These are night blooming flowers which usually open up in the early evening and by mid morning the next day they are wilted. Generally during the night, native moths pollinate the flowers when taking nectar. They are most likely attracted by the bright white reflection of the flowers in the moonlight and also by their beautiful scent. Once the flowers are pollinated small cucumber-like fruit, 2-4 inches in length begin to develop. The fruit is filled with bright orange pulp and numerous small brownish-black seeds.

Distribution: This exceedingly rare endemic plant is found on the coast of all the main islands including some of the off shore islets as well as some of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The plant pictured here is one of the last known plants on the eastern side of O’ahu, there were two plants side by side but the other fell victim to a recent construction of a walking path.

Cultural Uses: Although this plant is a relative of capers, there is no known cultural use at this time.

Landscape Uses and Care:This is an excellent plant for the xeriscape garden since it requires very little water once established in the ground. It is also an ideal plant for the “Moon Garden” since its big white flowers bloom at night, it will shine and shimmer in the moonlight. Be on the watch for cabbage moth caterpillars that occasionally munch on the leaves of this plant. Full sun and well drained soil is best for this plant and letting the ground dry out in between watering is a good idea also.

Additional Info: As mentioned above, these plants are most likely pollinated by native moths that feed at night. Currently we are working on a coastal restoration where this plant naturally grows and have outplanted over 800 of them in areas that were cleared of invasive weeds like kiawe and koa haole. Within the next month we plan to outplant another 600 in this same area in hopes to return this site to how it may have looked centuries ago. Today, with this plant’s increasing rarity around the state due to overdevelopment of its coastal habitat, more areas need to be restored not only to help the plant itself but everything else that may depend on it. It is very important to protect all native Hawaiian life because whether it’s directly or indirectly, all things are affected.

Scientific Name: Alyxia stellata

Endemic: All HI except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau

Description: Shrubby lianas that often twine like a vine but are more shrub-like in appearance. The leaves are highly variable in size, shape, and color ranging from dark to fairly light green. The flowers, which are very small, number 3-5 in a cluster and range from light green to creamy yellow. Once these flowers are pollinated they form green fruits that turn dark purple to black when ripe and are very glossy. Sometimes they segment into two or even three in-line fruits.

Distribution: Maile is an endemic plant which means that it is only found in Hawai’i and no where else in the world. Today it is still fairly common in dry to mesic forests on all the main islands except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau, where they probably occurred in the past.

Cultural Uses: The new growth on maile is used to make very beautiful and highly fragrant lei. All parts of the plant contain a chemical called coumarin, which is the substance that gives this plant its fragrance (Wagner, et.al, 1999). Now days most of the “maile” lei that are sold come from the Cooke Islands and are not the actual maile that is native to Hawai’i. This is probably good because the Hawaiian maile is not as abundant today as in the past and grows very slow compared to the plants from the Cooke Islands.

Landscape Use and Care: Plant Maile in the ground as an accent around rocks or at the base of larger trees. It does best in partial shade but can tolerate full sun. Daily watering is fine if you have well drained soil, if not only water again if the soil appears dried out, too much watering can rot and kill the plant. Once the plant has a lot of new growth only water when necessary. Sometimes ants bring in scales that appear as white or brown bumps on the leaves and stems. If you can get rid of the ants the rest of the pests should be easier to deal with using store bought pesticides or by simply rubbing them off with your fingers.

Additional Info: Hawaiians recognized the highly variable shapes of Maile and developed names to describe them, some names are: Maile ha’i wale–brittle Maile; Maile lau li’i–small leaved Maile; Maile lau nui–large leaved Maile; Maile kaluhea–sweet Maile and Maile pakaha–blunt leaved Maile.

Scientific Name: Cyperus laevigatus

Also Known As: The Hawaiian Mat Making Flatsedge

Indigenous: All HI except Lana’i and Kaho’olawe

Description: A small rounded sedge with narrow culms up to about 2 ft. tall ending up into a sharp point. The flowers are small spikelets that usually come down about an inch or two from the tip, protrude out from the side and are light brown-gray in color.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant found throughout subtropical regions worldwide, here in Hawaii it is most likely found in coastal areas and along the margins of ponds and marshes on the islands of Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Maui, Hawai’i, and Laysan in the Northwestern part of the Hawaiian Island chain.

Cultural Uses: This plant is famous and highly valued by Hawaiians for its use to weave mats and more recently hats. In fact even the author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that there were no mats finer than the makaloa mats of Hawaii during his travels throughout the Pacific.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant looks great in ponds and can be used as an accent around rock features. It does best in full sun and its roots can tolerate being fully submerged underwater. Just put the whole pot in the pond and weigh it down with some rocks. It also does well planted in areas of your garden that for whatever reason continuously stay wet. Few pests bother this plant so that makes taking care of it that much easier. Right now this plant is available at the Home Depots in Pearl City as well as in Honolulu for about $8 a piece, a great price for a plant that is seldom offered for sale.

Additional Info: Our lowland streams and marshes are vital habitats for many native flora and fauna and are essential in the prevention of floods. This plant along with numerous other native sedges and rushes, shrubs and groundcovers are main components of this ecotype which is now dominated by alien plants and animals. More work needs to be done to reestablish these zones as native habitats not only for the plant and animals sake, but to reduce and or prevent the threat of lowland flooding.

Scientific Name: Pipterus albidus

Endemic: All of HI except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau

Description: Large shrubs or small trees 5-15 feet tall that generally have light green leaves with whitish undersides and either green pink or reddish colored veins. The leaves range in size from about four inches up to a foot across and are also fairly rough to the touch. Flowers are insignificant in appearance, but develop into fleshy white fruit which are connected directly to the stem usually where the leaf connects to the stem as well. A single plant can have hundreds of fruit at a time and each fruit contains many tiny brown seeds from which new plants will develop from.

Distribution: This endemic plant is found in mesic to wet forests and valleys on all the main islands except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau.

Landscape Use and Care: Mamaki does well as an under story shrub or in semi-shaded areas. It also does fine in full sun with moderate watering. As with most plants, mamaki also does better in well drained soils. Few pests bother this plant but spider mites may colonize under the leaves, wiping them off with soapy water should take care of it (See Additional Info).

Cultural Uses: Mamaki was used to make kapa (clothing) when the softer, more preferred wauke (paper mulberry) wasn’t available. Today as well as in the past, mamaki is commonly used to make a mild but invigorating and healthy tea.

Additional Info: If caterpillars are present, be careful about spraying the plant because those caterpillars may be the larvae of the native Kamehameha Butterfly who uses the mamaki as a host plant, you also don’t want to spray it with pesticides if you plan on using the plant for making tea anyway. As for the butterfly, the adult looks similar to a non-native monarch butterfly but with more bold designs and a fuzzier body. However, the Kamehameha butterfly is becoming increasingly rare because not as much mamaki is available for this insect to thrive on, but on the contrary, more monarch butterflies are seen because more people are planting its favorite host plant the crown flower which is also not native to Hawaii, so by planting mamaki in your garden not only will you be helping to increase the number plants but also the number of Kamaehameha butterflies, not to mention that you will have a cool and useful plant in your yard.

Scientific Name: Hedyotis terminalis

Endemic: All of HI except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe

Description: Shrubs, small trees or even lianas (woody vine like plants) that reach heights of up to fifteen feet tall. They have extremely glossy green leaves that come out in pairs which alternate up the branch. The new leaves or liko are easily distinguishable because they almost look like a pair of puckered up lips ready to give you a big, fat, manono kiss. The flowers, which are usually green but can also be purple, have narrow petals and look very star shaped and can come out in clusters of up to 30 or more individuals. The fruits are numerous and can be either dark blue, purple or even black.

Distribution: Manono are generally found in mesic to wet forests and bogs from 800 ft. to over 6000 ft. in elevation on all of the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

Cultural Uses: The flower and fruit clusters as well as the liko are highly valued and were commonly used in lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: Manono needs constant watering in partial shade otherwise it is very hard to keep. In those conditions it will have its very unique growth habit and be a great addition to any landscape. Look out for spidermites that can deform the leaves

Scientific Name: Gossypium tomentosum

Endemic: All HI except Hawaii Island

Description: Shrubs with pale green palmate leaves which have a light covering of silvery hairs called tomentose, which is how it gets its name. The flowers are very attractive being bright yellow, opening in the morning and closing by the next day. After the flowers are pollinated they develop into hard seed capsules about an inch in diameter. When the capsules become ripe they dry up and crack open revealing the small light brown cotton balls within. Unlike the commercial cotton we are used to seeing this type of cotton has short hairs making them not as useful as the other one. Ma’o can reach heights of three to four feet tall.

Distribution: This is an increasingly rare plant now listed as threatened but still found in limited populations on all of the main islands except Hawai’i in dry, rocky coastal sites up to about 300 ft. in elevation.

Cultural Uses: Ma’o can be strung into lei but primarily this plant was used to make a green dye, hence the name ma’o (green), but it was made from the yellow flowers.

Landscape Uses and Care: This is the perfect plant for the xeric gardener or for anybody interested in a brown-thumb friendly plant. It is basic to take care of and requires practically no water once established. It makes a nice low, dense border plant, not hedge, it looks better if left to look natural and not hedge shaped. If you do have to cut it back use a pair of clippers and remove only the areas you need to. The more sun and less water you give it the more silvery the foliage will become. Look out for aphids and white flies but both are easy to take care of with store bought pesticides. Plants that are grown slower, with less watering that build up a more silvery sheen will be a little less vulnerable to pests.

Extra Info: This plant help save the American cotton industry when it was hybridized with the commercial cotton to prevent further destruction caused from the caterpillar of a butterfly which fed on the nectar of the plant. The Hawaiian cotton lacks the flavor lactones within the nectar which would otherwise attract the butterfly to the commercial cotton, but it was the butterfly’s caterpillar that would inflict the damage on the cotton plant. Now without the good nectar the butterflies don’t show up.

Hawaii’s Official State Flower

Scientific Name: Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana

Endemic: All HI except Molokai and O’ahu

Description: A shrub (up to 10 ft.) with maple like leaves and bright yellow hibiscus flowers. This plant varies in appearance between islands but generally falls into three subspecies: H.brackenridgei subsp. brackenridgei of Maui, Molokai, Lana’i, and Hawai’i and H. brackenridgei subsp. mokuleianus of O’ahu and Kaua’I and this one, H. brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana of Molokai and O’ahu. The most visible difference between the three subspecies is in the leaves and stems. Subspecies mokuleianus has leaves with more serrated margins and pink veins; there are also tiny spines on the branches. Meanwhile, subspecies brackenridgei has leaves with more rounded margins, yellow veins and lacks the tiny spines on the branches. This particular subspecies came from Makua Valley on O’ahu where it was only recently discovered and posses characteristics of both subspecies making it very appealing. Its leaves resemble those of the subspecies brackenridgei but with pink veins like subspecies mokuleianus and although it is from O’ahu, it lacks the branch thorns of subsp. mokuleianus which is a good thing cause those little pricks can hurt.

Distribution: This is an endemic species found only in Hawai’i, it is also an endangered species with very few populations left in the wild. They are usually found in the dry to mesic forests of all the main islands except Ni’ihau (it was once reportedly collected from Kaho’olawe but now it no longer exists there).

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant does well in full sun to partial shade and needs very little water to thrive although daily watering is o.k. It is a fast grower and will flower twice a year. Each flowering period lasts up to two months with blooms occuring daily on a flowering stalk that rises up above the rest of the plant. Unlike most hibiscuses, this plant doesn’t perform well as a hedge. Instead it looks best as a specimen plant. Rose beetles may attack the leaves of Ma’ohaohele at night and leave them looking like Swiss cheese. To prevent this, planting it near a light source at night should help. It seems that plants which are normally affected by rose beetles aren’t affected as much when they are either planted near landscape lighting or under a bright streetlamp or porch light. Leave the lights on from dusk until at least 8 or 9 at night and that should keep those nasty munchers away. Occasionally, whiteflies may be found under the leaves, any store bought pesticide should remedy that problem.

Additional Info: The name of this plant- ma’o hau hele literally means the “traveling green hau”. It is probable that it got this name because after the plant gets to be about 3-5 years old it will become top heavy and either lean over or fall over and sprout new roots where the leaning branches touch the ground. Sometimes the old portion of the plant will die and the newly sprouted roots from the leaning branches will make the same plant thrive in a new spot a few feet over from its original location. Over time if the plant continues to flop over and sprout new roots it can move quite some distance. A friend of mine Lorin Gill recalls a particular ma’o hau hele traveling over 20 ft in about 15 years! In 1988 the State of Hawai’i changed the state flower from the native red hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio) to this one. It should be made clear that this is the only species of yellow hibiscus that can be called our state flower, all other yellow hibiscus are not.

Scientific Name: Schidea globosa

Endemic: Oahu, Molokai, Maui

Description: Low growing plants with narrow, almost succulent leaves and tiny flowers that form a rounded sunburst cluster that protrudes up above the plant.

Distribution: This increasingly rare plant is found on the islands of O’ahu, Moloka’i and Maui usually on sea cliffs or exposed rock faces.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant is excellent for those people interested in xeriscape gardens. It thrives in full sun but does O.K. in partial shade and requires very little water once established in the ground. It looks great around larger landscaping stones or in tight corners to soften the look.

Extra Info: Schidea is an endemic genus with 24 different species within it, all of which are believed to have evolved from a single ancestor.

Scientific Name: Fimbristylis cymosa

Description: This is a type of native sedge that forms short, rounded tufts up to 10 inches high. It has light green foliage with narrow, erect blades that are very stiff. When flowering, a cluster of brown spikelets form on a taller stem that rises slightly above the rest of the plant. Mau’u’aki’aki is a plant that you have to touch in order to get the full effect of it.

Distribution: This indigenous plant is widespread throughout the Pacific. Here in Hawai’i it is found in the coastal strand zones usually in rocky areas but sometimes in sand right in the heart of the most brutal conditions.

Cultural Uses: There are no known cultural uses for this plant.

Landscape Uses and Care: Mau’u’aki’aki is very strong and can tolerate the most harsh environments including blazing sun, wind, salt and drought conditions. There are also no pests that I have seen bother this plant as of yet, except for the horse that’s on our old property that used to eat it, but you can’t get rid of that problem with any store bought pesticide. In the landscape we like to use it as either an accent plant around rocks (just like in its natural habitat) or as a mass planting of ground cover like how you would use mondo grass (which is not native by the way) but in full sun.

Don’t over water. The best way to water mau’u’aki’aki is to give it a good soaking and not water again until the soil is completely dried out. Once its established only water when needed, sometimes that’s never.

Additional Info: Don’t get this plant confused with another native grass called ‘aki’aki (without the mau’u in front), its botanical name is Sporoblolus virginicus and they are very different, although they grow in the same habitat, ‘aki’aki prefers sandy areas while mau’u ‘aki’aki likes rocky areas, on top of that, they look nothing alike. What’s funny is that mau’u is a general name for grasses in the Hawaiian language which would make you think that Sporobolus virginicus, the grass, would be called mau’u’aki’aki rather than just ‘aki’aki and Fymbristylis cymosa, the sedge, would be called just ‘aki’aki. Whatevahs.

Scientific Name: Munroidendron racemosum

Endemic, Endangered: Kaua’i

Description: Trippy is the first words that come to mind. When I first saw a full grown specimen of this plant (which reaches heights between 15-25 feet) I couldn’t believe it came from somewhere in Hawaii, I take it back, I couldn’t believe it came from anywhere on Earth! At least not present day Earth. This plant looks like it came straight out of Jurassic Park. Its thick, hairy leaves and flowering/fruit stalk look unlike any other plant most people are familiar with. The leaves are made up of smaller leaflets that are covered with tiny white hairs that help it reflect sunlight and retain moisture but at the same time give it an almost ‘wooly’ appearance. The flowering stalk hangs down like a pony tail from the branches, is about 2 feet long and is completely covered with yellow, star shaped flowers. Once these flowers are pollinated they develop into plump, fuzzy white fruit with a dark purple circle on the outer facing side and dark purple pulp on the inside, very cool and unusual looking, for real.

Distribution: This is a super duper, not even joking, hurry up and do something, almost pau, no more nothing left tree. It’s listed as an endangered species but so are about ¼ of our native plants, it should be in a separate category along with a bunch of other plants that are on the verge of extinction. Naturally this plant resides with only three very small populations on the island of Kaua’i so when I say that it looks like it came straight out of Jurassic Park that’s half way true because a lot of the movie was filmed on Kaua’i and just like the animals in that movie, this plant will be extinct soon if were not careful.

Cultural Uses: No cultural uses are known at this time for this plant, however the fruit is edible and quite sweet (it will turn your whole mouth purple) but there is no documentation that suggests it was regularly eaten. In fact, it is so rare that there is no known Hawaiian name.

Landscape Uses and Care: Don’t be scared away with what this plant looks like in a small one gallon pot like how they are in the store, it gives them no justice as to how incredible they look when mature, this plant speaks wisdom. Water it daily until the plant is established in the ground (until you see signs of active growth) then slowly cut back on your watering schedule. Spider mites and aphids occasionally occur on young or newly transplanted plants but these pests can be treated with store bought pesticides or simply by spraying them off with water.

Additional Info: This endangered plant comes from the same family (Arialacea) of plants as the highly invasive octopus tree (Schefflera actinophylla) which is taking over much of our native mesic forests, they same forest that this truly Hawaiian plant, along with its other native relatives, used to thrive in.

Scientific Name: Myoporum sandwicense

Also Known As: False sandalwood

Indigenous: All HI except Kaho’olawe; 1 Endemic subspecies: O’ahu

Description: Depending on which island you are on or perhaps more specifically which part of the island you are on, naio can take the form of a prostrate ground cover, such as naio papa at South Point on the island of Hawii; or fairly large shrub (about 8-10 ft tall) as in other coastal localities on most islands including the Pohakuloa region again on the island of Hawai’I or a 50-80 ft tall tree like those in the upper dry forests and subalpine regions of Maui and Hawaii. All of these forms will usually have glossy dark green, glabrous leaves which are anywhere from 1-8 inches long and about 1-2 inches wide. I say usually because there is also an endangered subspecies of this plant that is found on O’ahu (M. sandwicense sub sp. stellatum) that has smaller leaves that are covered in tiny tan colored hairs that make it seem almost velvet like in appearance. However all plants will have small, whitish-pink flowers about a half an inch in diameter that emit a spicy-sandalwood like fragrance. Once pollinated the flowers develop in to small fleshy white fruit of about the same size containing a single hard seed.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant found in the coastal dry forest up to the sub-alpine dry forest on all the main islands except never recorded from Kaho’olawe. On O’ahu this plant is primarily found around Ka’iwi (Allen Davis), Ka’ena, as well as at Kalaeloa (Barber’s Point) where that endangered, endemic subspecies mentioned above is located.

Cultural Uses: The hard wood of this plant is used in the construction of houses, spears and other smaller utensils.

Landscape Uses and Care: This extremely hardy plant thrives in full sun with minimal watering. It does well as a specimen plant or as a medium sized hedge and looks really nice especially with its dark green leaves. Few pests bother this plant so pesticide application is usually not necessary. Naio is also used in soil bioremediation since studies have shown it to remove and breakdown petroleum based substances in the ground. It amazes me that this plant isn’t used more in landscapes especially for its striking foliage and screening capabilities.

Additional Info: This plant is also known as bastard sandalwood since it was used to fill orders of sandalwood to the orient when sandalwood became scarce. Its fragrance resembles the scent of sandalwood when the tree is cut or burned, however it doesn’t retain the scent as long as normal sandalwood.

Scientific Name: Myoporum sandwicense

Indigenous: South point, Hawaii

Description: Naio papa is a crawling ground cover with dark green, glossy leaves and tiny white flower clusters that emerge from the leaf axis and stems. It has round white fruit that is up to a quarter of an inch in size. When in season hundreds of these tiny fruit can be seen dangling from the underside of each stem. Apparently there are a few different forms of naio papa. This is quite unusual considering that to my knowledge there is only one area in which this plant is found (as you can see in its distribution) and to have three obviously distinct forms growing within this one population is pretty unique. One form has leaves that are a shade or two lighter than the rest, are much broader and appear almost succulent in appearance with marginal serrations near the leaf tip that are a little ‘jagged’. It also has fatter stems that are light green and spread out in a more prostrate manner. The second form has darker leaves that are a little narrower than the first and with much finer marginal serrations. The stems of the second form are also maroon at the tips and tend to not be as prostrate as the first; the flowers also have a pink tinge to them. The third form has dark leaves too but they seem to practically lack the marginal serrations as with the first two and its stems are much woodier in comparison to the first two. This form to me is also the tallest of the different varieties of naio papa.

Distribution: Naio papa is only found on the windswept coast of South Point on the island of Hawai’i. It is pretty cool to see this place because all of the native plants including naupaka (Scaevola sericea), ‘ilima (Sida fallax), and ‘akoko (Chamaecyse celestroides) that are growing in this one area where the naio papa is found have all evolved to take prostrate forms less then 8 inches high, whereas in other areas with perhaps less harsh conditions the same plants are usually about 3-8 feet tall.

Landscape Use: This drought, salt, wind and sun tolerant plant makes a beautiful ground cover that is easy to maintain. Regular watering is o.k. to get the plant established in the ground, but after two to four weeks reduce watering to slow growth and have a more natural look. Plant them in the ground at about two feet apart this will give them adequate space to grow and keep that prostrate look. If planted too close they may compete with each other for space and end up crawling on top one another making them look taller and not so prostrate. As far as bugs go look out for white flies that contribute to the growth of black ‘sooty’ mold which could eventually kill the plant and is an eye sore to look at anyway. Mealy bugs and spider mites can also affect the plant by discoloring and disfiguring the leaves. Treat any of these problems as soon as you see them with either a store bought pesticide or by shooting off the underside of the leaves with a heavy stream of water. Usually once the plant is established and the water reduced to only when needed the bugs have a harder time taking hold. When well maintained, this ground cover will make any landscape look great.

Additional information: Myoporum sandwicense is a highly variable species. Generally it is a shrub or small tree up to about 8-10 ft in height but on occasion you can find certain forms like this one which only reaches a few inches in height to other forms in the upper elevation dry forests that reach heights of over 50 ft.

Scientific Name: Vigna mariana

Also Known As: Beach Pea

Indigenous: All HI except Lana’i and Kaho’olawe

Description: An herbaceous plant that becomes woody towards the base; it can either crawl along the ground or grow up a fence or trellis. One leaf is composed of three oval leaflets about three inches in length each attached to very long running stems. They have pea type flowers which are bright yellow, about an inch wide and are arranged in clusters of 1-6 flowers. Once pollinated, pods develop with 2-10 small, reddish-brown seeds that are about a 1/4 inch long.

Distribution: This indigenous plant is found throughout the tropics, in Hawaii, it is found on O’ahu, Kaua’i, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island. Its natural habitat is sandy coasts where it is often crawling through other natives such as naupaka kahakai (Scaevola sericea), pohinahina (Vitex rotundifolia), ‘aki’aki grass (Sporabolus virginicus) and pohuehue (Ipomea pes-caprae); sometimes it occurs on sea cliffs and dry slopes.

Landscape Use and Care: If you need a fast growing ground cover, nanea’s for you! But be careful of what you wish for because it really does grow quickly. Plant one every 2 ft. to get a nice full cover, it even does great on slopes to control erosion and the flowers add great color when in bloom which is pretty much continuous. Every other day watering is ok but you should reduce the watering schedule once established, the plant will be hardier and tougher. Nanea prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade, watch out for spider mites will discolor and eventually defoliate the plant. They should be treated with a pesticide specifically for mites.

Cultural Uses: The flowers of nanea are beautiful enough and seem strong enough for use in lei, as well as the seeds.

Additional Info: This plant goes by several different Hawaiian names depending on what island or region thereof. Other names include: nenea, mohihihi, puhili, puhilihili, pulihilihi, wahine ‘oma’o and my favorites: lemuomakili and ‘okolemakili which means cracked buttocks.

Scientific Name: Gardenia brighamii

Also Known As: Hawaiian Gardenia

Endemic: Oahu, Lanai

Description: A large shrub or small tree 4-12 ft. tall (some of the few natural plants are about 20 ft tall) with light green leaves and light tan trunk. Tiny clear to opaque yellow resin balls develop at stem tips prior to new leaves forming. Small flowers about 2 inches across resemble a puakenikeni flower in petal shape rather than a gardenia and smells like the larger bushy, non-native gardenia flower but with a hint of coconut oil, that’s right you heard me, coconut oil. It smells so good you want to eat it, but I wouldn’t recommend that, it tastes terrible. Once the flowers are pollinated a large green fruit about the size of a golf ball forms. Inside the ripe fruit, brilliant yellow-orange pulp surrounds a hard seed capsule filled with even a bright, richer yellow orange pulp and housing around 100 seeds.

Distribution: This extremely rare plant is one of many native Hawaiian plants found on the federal list of endangered species. In the wild there is only one plant remaining on O’ahu and a handful on Lana’i, all totaling around 10 plants left in the state, and since this is a species endemic to Hawai’i, that means 10 plants left in the world! In fact the plants in this pot are the grandchildren of the last remaining plant from O’ahu. They were once believed to have existed on all of the main islands in the dry forest, but are now restricted to the populations mentioned above. The lowland dry forest where this and many other native plants are found is the most species diverse ecotype in Hawaii, even more than the rainforest! It is also the most threatened since only 5% of it remains, 95% of the native lowland-dry forest including the all plants and animals within it are gone.

Cultural Uses: The yellow-orange pulp found within the seed capsule was highly valued for making a rich yellow dye for Ali’i. The color is so unique that it was called na’u, after the plant from which it is derived. The light colored wood was also used for making house posts for people of high status and the fragrant flowers are also strung into beautiful lei. Now days this would be the perfect flower for ‘behind da eeah’ (behind the ear) to make the beautiful women of Hawai’i even more beautiful, at least they’ll smell better! Nah, only joke! The color of the na’u dye resembles the color of the setting sun and there was a game that would be played by Hawaiian children when the sun was setting who ever could start off the word na’u first and hold it (na’uuuuuuuuuuu….) until the sun set was the winner.

Landscape Use and Care: This must have plant looks great as a hedge (if enough are available) or as a specimen plant that stands alone in all its glory. Treat this plant like how many people treat their Puakenikeni, they put it where everyone can see it! No be shame! Show this plant off, it deserves it. Full sun is best; it will grow faster, stay bushier and flower most although I’ve seen it grow quite well in partial shade. Daily watering is fine if you have well drained soil; if not then wait until the surrounding soil dries out before watering again. Once the plant is established reduce watering to only when needed, this plant doesn’t require much water which is great for times like now when water conservation is so important.

Additional Info: Another name for na’u is nanu and either name could be used but there are actually two more species of gardenia that are native to Hawaii in addition to the one mentioned here, do you know what they are, I’ll give you a hint, they’re both called either na’u or nanu, still can’t get it? No, not the Tiare, that comes from Tahiti, and no, not the Amy, even though she sounds local the gardenia isn’t. The two other na’u are Gardenia manii, another endangered plant found only on O’ahu and Gardenia remyi, a rare plant, not listed as endangered but still very rare found on Kaua’i, Maui, Molokai and Hawai’i.

Scientific Name: Scaevola gaudichaudiana; S. gaudichaudii; S. mollis

Indigenous

Description: A large shrub with large, green, thick leaves, soft white fruit and the well known “half flower.”

Distribution: This native Hawaiian species is found throughout the tropics on the coast. Locally, naupaka can be found on practically every sandy or rocky beach.

Landscape Uses and Care: Naupaka kahakai makes a great hedge. Its natural habitat will tell you that this plant thrives in full sun and needs very little water once established in the ground. This plant can be shaped into a low hedge or groomed into a large hedge reaching over 10 feet tall. Planting them every 2 feet will ensure a thick and beautiful hedge. Very few pests bother this extremely hardy plant.

Additional Information: On sandy beaches, the wind-breaking effect of naupaka traps sand at their roots, forming a mound. Over periods of time, the continuing sand deposits turn into sand dunes.

This can easily be seen at places like Allen Davis or A.D.’s, formerly known as Queen’s Beach.

Today, places like this (A.D.’s, Ka’ena point, Kahuku, etc.) are being threatened by the use of off-road vehicles. These places harbor many endangered plant species that off-roaders may not realize are being harmed.

Many of the coastlines that once were home to numerous sand dunes are now covered with ironwood trees that don’t encourage the formation of dunes. Instead, these plants that are planted as windbreaks invasively spread, preventing anything from growing under them.

Let’s keep the rest of our beaches from being taken over by invasive alien plants such as ironwood and plant more naupaka instead. They look better and also serve as windbreaks, without hurting other plantlife or our feet. Ever step on the ironwood seed cones?

Scientific Name: Scaevola gaudichaudii

Also Known As: Mountain Naupaka

Endemic: All HI except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe

Description: Small shrubs 3-4 ft. tall with narrow leaves about 2-3 inches long and ½-1 inch wide. The margins of the leaves are slightly serrated as you approach the tip. The most appealing feature of this native plant are their fragrant yellow ‘half flowers. Compared to the other 8 native species of Naupaka, 6 of which are also mountain dwelling (the other two are the common coastal naupaka kahakai (Scaevola sericea) and the Endangered dwarf naupaka (Scaevola coriacea) which is also found near the ocean). This particular species has the most narrow and pointed petals of them all, its very striking. The color of the flower is fairly unusual as well being that it is only one of two yellow flowered species of naupaka, the other being ‘ohe naupaka (Scaevola glabra) which is much more rare and only found in the upper elevation wet forests of the Ko’olau Mts. on O’ahu and on Kaua’i, it too has yellow flowers but their shape is more tubular and similar to that of a native lobelia rather than a naupaka. Once the flowers are pollinated, small black fruit develop with a single seed within.

Distribution: This endemic species is found on all the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe in the dry to mesic forests, quite unlike its other mountain naupaka relatives which reside mostly in higher, wetter areas.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant makes an excellent addition to any yard whether you’re a collector of native plants or not. They require very little water once established in the ground and love full sun. They also seem to be the hardiest compared to the other 6 species of naupaka kuahiwi by showing signs of being resistant to mites and other pests that would normally crinkle and deform the shape of other naupaka leaves. Many times people plant the coastal naupaka kahakai on the ma kai side of the house and naupaka kuahiwi on the ma uka side.

Cultural Uses: The fragrant flowers of various naupaka kuahiwi are used in lei as seen in the book Na Lei Makamae by Marie McDonald and Paul Weissich (a definite must have for everyone especially hula dancers, native plant collectors, lei makers and Hawaiian culture enthusiasts).

Additional Info: All of the nine species of native naupaka are believed to have come from only three separate colonizations. All but one species is endemic, the common coastal naupaka (S. sericea) is indigenous, and represents one of the three colonizations, since it’s fruit float it probably reached here from other places in the Pacific on numerous occasions. The other colonization is believed to be for ‘ohe naupaka (S. glabra) mentioned above, and the third colonization represents the rest of the other native species in which one pioneer species radiated into many other species.

Scientific Name: Scaevola coriacea

EndemicEndagered

Description: A slow-growing prostrate ground cover no more than 6 inches tall with succulent, glossy, dark-green leaves and typical naupaka half-flowers. Once pollinated, these flowers turn into small black fruit about a quarter- to a half-inch across, containing a single seed. This attractive plant closely resembles a jade plant.

Distribution: This endangered native Hawaiian plant was formerly found on sand dunes and rocky coastlines of all the main islands, except Kahoolawe, but is now restricted to small a population on Maui and off-shore islets of both Maui and Molokai.

Cultural Uses: None are known, most likely because this plant was always rare.

Landscape Uses and Care: Naupaka papa looks awesome as either an accent plant around rocks or, if enough are planted, as a ground cover. It is a slow grower, so you may want to place plants closer together than you would with other ground covers. But once it reaches the desired size, you won’t have to prune it very often. Few pests mess with it — probably because its leaves are thick and waxy. It requires little water once established. Full sun is best for the plant’s health, making it flower profusely and look more full. Naupaka papa can be grown from seeds found within the fruit or from cuttings, but success rates are low. On average only about 50 percent take root, while we can get close to 100 percent with the common beach naupaka.

Additional Information: It is believed that all nine species of naupaka (two coastal and seven mountain) came from three separate colonizations: one for the common beach naupaka, which is indigenous; another for ‘ohe naupaka (S. glabra), a spectacular mountain species with large tubular yellow flowers not typical of naupaka; and finally a third colonization covering all the rest of the species, including six mountain species and this coastal one.

It is hard to trace this plant’s lineage, as it has characteristics of both the common beach species — such as habitat — but the small black fruit resemble those of the mountain species.

Medium-size ferns about 2 feet tall with light green fronds and creeping rhizomes (stems). Each frond comprises 20 or so pairs of pinnae, or smaller, evenly spaced frondlets. The rhizomes are covered in brown hairs. Overall, this is an attractive fern that has the potential to be a great addition to the landscape industry.

Scientific Name: Cyclosorus interruptus

Also Known As: Marsh Fern

Indigenous: All HI

Description: Medium sized ferns about 2 ft. tall with light green fronds and creeping rhizomes. Each frond is comprised of 20 or so pairs of pinnae, or smaller frondlets that are evenly spaced apart. The rhizomes are covered in small brown hairs. Overall this is a very attractive looking fern that has the potential to be a great addition to the landscape industry.

Distribution: This fern unlike most ferns is normally found in wet marshy areas like Kawainui or on the margins of estuaries and streams. It is an indigenous fern found on all the larger Hawaiian Islands as well as throughout the Pacific and Tropical Asia.

Cultural Uses: The fronds, but more specifically the pinnae are use to produce beautiful lei, either made up entirely of neke or having neke woven into a lei made up of numerous plants.

Landscape Use and Care: Neke looks great when either kept in a pot and placed into a water feature or in a landscape as an accent plant around other features. Full sun and regular watering is ideal for this plant to look its best. You can also plant it in an area that for whatever reason stays wet like at the opening of a downspout. Few pests seem to bother this plant making it an even better candidate for your garden. Right now you can purchase this one of a kind fern at the Home Depot for only $6. That’s a great price for a fern that is hardly ever for up for sale.

Additional info: Like many other native plants, neke has been here in Hawaii for centuries but yet it has hardly been used, if it all in Hawai’i’s landscapes even though it looks great and can be applied to so many different areas. This just goes to show that more work needs to be done to figure out which native plants can be used in our gardens today to help perpetuate them as well as the cultural practices surrounding them and reduce the plants’ chances of becoming extinct.

Scientific Name: Tribulus cistoides

Indigenous

Description: Low-growing ground cover with bright yellow flowers that average in 2 inches in diameter. Once pollinated flowers develop in to sun shaped seed capsules that are covered with very hard and sharp spines.

Distribution: This native Hawaiian plant is uncommonly found along sandy and rocky coast lines of most islands, including the north western Hawaiian islands.

Landscape Uses and Care: As a ground cover Nohu does best in full sun with not much watering. Because of where it grows naturally conditions such as hight wind, salt spray, and drought will make this plant thrive. However, you must be concerened with the seed capsules. All thought the plants seem beautiful from a far it would be in your best interest to not walk around bare foot unless you want to discover the true definition of pain. They don’t call it Nohu for nothing!

Additional Information: Nohu is also known as the Hawaiian scorpion fish but the spikes on this plant are not poisonous. In fact, the seeds are the favorite food of the now very rare Nihoa finch.

Scientific Name: Morinda citrifolia

Also Known As: Indian Mulberry

Polynesian Introduced

Description: A member of the coffee family, a relatively small tree (up to 15 feet tall) with giant, glossy, thick veined leaves.

Landscape and Care: Full Sun – Partial Shade – Minimal Watering, especially once established in ground.

Cultural Uses: Hawaiians used the red pigment from the bark and the yellow pigment from the roots to dye kapa. The juice from the fruit was used in a medicinal drink as a remedy for tuberculosis and in another drink to counter any unpleasant effects of ‘awa.

Scientific Name: Sesbania tomentosa

Endemic Endangered Species

Description: Very cool, to say the least, with unreal-looking flowers. These are small, upright trees 10 to 18 feet tall, with evenly pinnate leaves, which means that they have an even number of leaflets on each compound leaf.

Young leaves also have shiny, golden hairs on the surface, an evolutionary adaptation to help reflect the sun so that they don’t dry out. The hairy texture of the leaves is called tomentos.

The plant’s flowers are pea-shaped and about 2 inches long. They emerge in clusters of about two to five and are either bright orange or orange with streaks of yellow and red. Once the flowers have been pollinated, narrow seed pods form, filled with small green-dark brown seeds.

Distribution: All forms are registered as the same species and all are listed as endangered. This form comes from the arid, rocky coastline of Apua point on the island of Hawaii.

Cultural Uses: The flowers of ohai are strung into lei, either front to back, side to side (facing forward, keel down) or with the keel of the flowers alternating up and down. Actually, it doesn’t matter how you arrange the flowers; as long as you are wearing this lei you’ll be “da talk of da party.” Besides looking awesome, if you hold the flower by its stem and hit it on the top of your other hand, a few drops of sweet nectar will come out that you can lick up – da buggah ono!

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant will require full sun with minimal watering and well-drained soil. Watch out for aphids and spider-mites. If you notice these, smoosh ’em with your fingers, shoot them off with water or spray them with pesticides.

Additional Information: Sorry to say, but the plant known to most of us as ohai alii is not native – in fact, it’s not even a Polynesian introduction. When it was brought to the islands, it was given that name because its leaves resemble those of the real ohai and its flowers are red and yellow – the colors of the alii, or royalty.

Scientific Name: Sesbania tomentosa

Endemic – Endangered Species

Description: The many forms of ohai are all stunning in their own way. Most have evolved to have extremely soft, silvery-pubescent (soft with short hairs), pinnate leaves that help reflect sunlight and retain moisture in its harsh environment. This form, however, has darker green leaves that appear to be more waxy, with a little golden tomentose (the small hair-like covering from which the plant derives its species name).

The plant grows close to the ground, in a form similar to that of the Moomomi form from Molokai. The stem-tip leaves are highly aromatic when in full sun, and if enough are planted, you can smell them from quite a distance. Striking pea flowers form as clusters under the leaves, with each flower 1 to 2 inches long. The flower’s yellow color is what sets it apart from other ohai, which range from red to pink and orange. But remember, it’s the leaf clusters at the stem tips that smell good, not the flowers.

Distribution: All forms of this species are considered endangered, primarily because their natural habitat has been destroyed either by development, grazing mammals, lack of pollinators or destruction from off-road vehicles.

Cultural Uses: The beautiful flowers are used in leis and can be strung in the Maunaloa style.

Landscape Uses and Care: These small trees look great in landscapes and can be planted either as a specimen or in rows. Being such a small tree, its flowers are usually at eye level, which make viewing easy. Plant the tree in full sun and in soil that easily dries out; it is very sensitive to overwatering, which causes the leaves to turn yellow, wilt and fall off. Also, look out for shiny black stink bugs that might be on the plant — they look like black-and-gold ladybugs, but trust me they are not — no lady would ever dish out a smell like that. They don’t really harm the plant, but you can get rid of them by shooting the plant with water or by spraying it with a mild pesticide.

Scientific Name: Reynoldsia sandwicensis

Endemic, Uncommon

Description: An dry forest endemic Hawaiian tree. Not commonly found today.

Landscape Uses and Care: This native Hawaiian tree loves full sun to partial shade with very minimal watering. This is a deciduous tree that loses its leaves annualy, but, as the plant matures and gets older, their branches form intricate designs making the tree look like a work of art. Really cool!

Cultural Uses: Used to play a game called kukulu’ae’o-Stilts!

Scientific Name: Metrosideros polymorpha

Endemic: All HI except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe

Description: Of the five different species of ‘ohi’a recognized, this is the most variable. The leaves of this plant range from 1/2″ to 3″, they can also be very glabrous or very hairy. The new leaves or liko range in color from dark purple, almost black to red, gold and everything in between. Some plants bush out while others grow to over 80 ft. tall. The ‘ohi’a or lehua as some people call, are best known for its flowers. They are just as variable as the plants themselves. Color ranges from very dark red (lehua ‘apane) all the way through to yellow (lehua mamo) or even white (lehua kea) according to some legends. I’ve even seen a flower that was dark red at the base, gradually faded to yellow and finally ended with greenish tips, it was unbelievable.

Distribution: The ‘ohi’a is an endemic plant found on all of the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe, at least that’s where they’re found today, They were most likely found on those other islands in the past. Today ‘ohi’a are found mainly at higher elevations, there are some places where you can still see them on the coast and in lowland dry forests but these instances are very rare. Originally, there range extended from sea level all the way up to around 6,500 ft.

Landscape Use and Care: Plant ‘Ohi’a anywhere. It is such a beautiful plant it deserves to be as dominant in the landscapes as it is in the native forests. Once planted it should be watered daily for up to 3-4 months in well drained soil. After that once every 2-3 days is sufficient unless you live in a very dry place or on the beach. Generally the plant reaches a height of about 15-30 feet in the landscape but height can be controlled by pruning, this also stimulates bushiness. Stem borers sometimes eat out stems and eventually the whole plant, often killing it. If you see a limb beginning to dry out, cut it off immediately to prevent further damage.

Cultural Uses: One of the most important woods in Hawaiian culture, ‘ohi’a was used for a number of things: In house construction, rafters and posts were made of it; decking, seats and gunwales of canoes were also made of ‘ohi’a; various leis either used the flowers, flower buds or leaf buds of ‘ohi’a; it decorated hula altars for the god Kuka’ohi’a and religious images called ki’i were made of ‘ohi’a as well.

Tasty Tid Bit: ‘Ohi’a probably evolved here in Hawai’i from plants that originally came from either New Zealand or perhaps Australia thousands of years ago. They are from the same genus and look very similar to each other. Many nurseries in Hawai’i grow these nonnative varieties, not knowing the potential damage they may be causing from cross-pollenation with native species. It is important to stick to growing native species to preserve the genetic integrity of the plants. If possible, growing plants that are specific to your island or even region of the island is best, they’re probably better suited to growing in that region anyway.

Scientific Name: Curcuma longa

Also Known As: Hawaiian turmeric

Polynesian Introduction: All HI except Kahoolawe

Description: An herbaceous plant with dark green leaves up to 4 ft. in length that arise out of dark yellow to orange fleshed rhizomes that most people refer to as roots but are actually underground stems. Emerging from the center of the leaves will be an upright inflorescence that resembles a single large white or sometimes purplish-white ginger flower but is really made up of numerous smaller flowers. This “big flower” is highly fragrant and easily distinguished amongst other members of the ginger family. Like many other ginger plants, ‘olena is also deciduous, meaning that it loses its leaves, or “dies back”, for a few months every year. So don’t be disappointed when this happens, you didn’t kill the plant, its just resting and will pop up again later.

Distribution: ‘Olena is a Polynesian Introduced plant. Here in Hawaii and is usually found in mesic valleys in areas that were once inhabited by early Hawaiians. Although not very common today, this plant can sometimes be purchased at various plant sales and Hawaiian functions.

Cultural Uses: This plant is highly valued in Hawaii and many other parts of the Pacific for its many uses. The pounded up rhizomes are strained and the liquid is used to treat ailments like ear infection or respiratory infection as well as to spice up food. The rich yellow color is also used to color food and dye kapa.

In other cultures, this plant is used to color and spice curry dishes.

Landscape Uses and Care: ‘Olena does best in partially shaded or full sun areas in rich moist soil. Few pests are known to bother this plant. Plant it along side other perennial plants because as mentioned above, this plant is deciduous and loses its leaves for 2-3 months. Don’t be discouraged by this, ‘olena is a truly beautiful and prized Hawaiian plant, it deserves to be in more of Hawai’i’s gardens.

Additional Info:The song “Pua ‘Olena” made famous by the talented Lim family, talks about the beautiful flower of the ‘Olena plant.

Scientific Name: Brighamia insignis

Endemic; Endangered: Kaua’i Only

Description: The alula often referred to a ‘olulu is a magnificent, almost prehistoric looking plant. This plant has a fat, succulent stalk (single stalk, sometimes branched) that emerges up from the ground with a rosette of large,rounded light green leaves on top. It has yellow flowers that protrude up from the leaf axises on long stem like tubes. When in bloom the flowers can completely encircle the top of the plant almost resembling a crown. The flowers are gently fragrant and are about 2 inches in diameter. Because of its appearance, people commonly call this plant ‘Cabbage on a Baseball Bat’.

Distribution: This federally listed endangered plant is endemic to the islands of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau although it hasn’t been seen for some time on the latter island, some reports even state that now on Kaua’i there is only one plant left in the wild. In the past one source says that it has also been seen on the Wai’anae mountains on O’ahu. Naturally they are found high up on exposed sea cliffs such as those on the Na Pali coast on Kaua’i. There is also a similar species (B. rockii) that is found on the sea cliffs of Molokai that closely resembles this plat but has larger white flowers with smaller, rounder leaves.

Landscape Use and Care: This plant is excellent for those people interested in xeriscape gardens. It thrives in full sun but does O.K. in partial shade. The alula does not like to have continuously wet roots so you should let the soil dry out in between waterings. If the soil is always wet at your home, the alula does fine in a pot. Watch out for red and black flat mites on the underside of leaves they will cause the leaves to become spotty and ugly. Slugs can also do a number on the stem of this plant sometimes eating through it over night so watch out for those little buggahs too.

Additional Info: One of the reasons why this plant is endangered is because it is presumed that its natural, native pollinator has gone extinct so there is nothing out in the wild to help it reproduce. You may have seen an episode of National Geographic (or in the IMAX) that showed two men who risk their lives repelling down these enormous sea cliffs to hand pollinate the flowers of this beautiful plant slowing or perhaps even preventing its demise.

Scientific Name: Microlepia strigosa

Indigenous: All HI

Description: Medium sized ferns that grow to be about 2-3+ ft. tall. Fronds are very soft and are usually light to medium green in color. Individual blades and midrib are usually very hairy as described by its Latin species name, striga which means short bristle like hairs. The degree of hairiness ranges from light to very heavy and are acknowledged as separate varieties.

Distribution: Palapalai is an indigenous fern meaning that it is native to Hawaii but also other places. Here it is found on all the main islands in usually mesic forests but occasionally in dry or even wet forests as well, from near sea level all the way up to about 5000 ft. elevation.

Cultural Uses: Palapalai is a very important plant in Hawaiian culture, primarily for Hula. It is one of the plants Kapu (sacred) to Laka, the goddess of hula, it is also used to adorn the Hula altar and dancer as well and is highly sought after for making lei. Many songs and chants also refer to palapalai for its beauty and cultural importance.

Landscape Uses: For years palapalai has been sold in stores and used in landscapes here in Hawaii and throughout the world. Although, chances are these are not the ones native to Hawaii, they most likely came from Asia where they are also native. Even the ferns that are normally sold here as “palapalai” are propagated either in the mainland or sometimes Mexico then shipped to nurseries in Hawaii. So, once you get the Hawaiian variety, you can plant them in any semi-shaded area like under the eve of your house, at the base of a larger tree, or even kept in a bright room with daily misting. Daily watering is ok once planted in the ground and routine application of compost, mulch or fertilizer will keep it looking full and green. Keep it in a more protected area since they can be prone to wind damage.

Additional Info: This fern is also known as palai, and there are many other ferns, both native and non-native that have palai in part of their name. Palapalai is also the name on the island of Ni’ihau for another native fern more commonly known as ‘okupukupu (Nephrolepis exaltata).

Scientific Name: Tetramalopium lepidotum subsp. lepidotum

Endemic – Endangered Species

Description: Small compact shrubs about a foot tall with soft, featherlike leaves. Its flowers protrude above the plant in tight little clusters. Each flower has white petals with a yellow center, almost like a daisy. Basically, as manly as I can say it, this plant is very cute.

Distribution: This native Hawaiian plant is rare and found only in a few spots in Oahu’s Waianae Mountains. It was once found on Lanai, but this population is believed to have become extinct. A subspecies was also found on Maui in Haleakala, but it, too, is believed to be extinct.

Cultural Uses: There are no known cultural uses for this plant, although with enough flower clusters, they would look very nice in leis. Because of their scarcity, I don’t recommend going out and collecting them; buy them from a nursery, plant them in your yard and then collect the flowers.

Landscape Uses and Care: This plant looks great as an accent around rocks. Plant them in full sun and be careful not to overwater them; once every few days should be enough. Too much water will cause them to wilt, rot and die. Check the soil to see if it is dry before watering again. Once the flowers are pollinated, the fallen seeds might germinate around the plant, which is a good thing because you want as many of these plants growing as possible, considering how rare it is.

Additional Information: This plant is closely related to another plant called the Oahu or Makua daisy (Tetramolopium filiforme) and might hybridize with it, as well as other species in the genus. Just be careful not to plant them too close to each other, and don’t plant them in the wild because almost all species of Tetramolopium in Hawaii are endangered or extinct, and you don’t want to accidentally hybridize the few wild individuals that remain.

Exotic looking shubs to medium sized trees up to 15 feet tall with large elliptical leaves that are easily distinguished by their pronounced marginal rib that encompasses the entire leaf perimeter. Foliage color is usually light green but often new shoots can be reddish-pink. The veins of the leaves can be varying hues of green, cream and yellow or sometimes even maroon, pink and or purple. The flowers are very small and emerge on a hanging inflorescence that can also vary in color from yellow to dark red and is usually 12-18 inches long. The foliage and flowering characteristics of this plant make it look very unusual and is a definite attention getter for any yard.

Scientific Name: Charpentiera obovata

Also Known As: Hawai’i’s Pyrotechnic Plant

Endemic: O’ahu, Moloka’i, Maui and Hawaii island

Description: Exotic looking shubs to medium sized trees up to 15 feet tall with large elliptical leaves that are easily distinguished by their pronounced marginal rib that encompasses the entire leaf perimeter. Foliage color is usually light green but often new shoots can be reddish-pink. The veins of the leaves can be varying hues of green, cream and yellow or sometimes even maroon, pink and or purple. The flowers are very small and emerge on a hanging inflorescence that can also vary in color from yellow to dark red and is usually 12-18 inches long. The foliage and flowering characteristics of this plant make it look very unusual and is a definite attention getter for any yard.

Distribution: The genus Charpentiera is comprised of six species, five of which, including this one, are found in Hawaii and no where else in the world. This particular species is very widespread and occurs in the mesic and wet forests of O’ahu (Ko’olau Mts. and Wai’anae Mts.), Molokai, Maui and Hawai’i. These plants are usually a component of the understory shrubbery but large specimens will reach the canopy in some areas and be exposed to full sun conditions.

Cultural Use: The dried wood of this plant is very light and flammable and it was used as fireworks. Hawaiians would ignite the wood and throw them off of cliffs leaving a trail of fire as it fell.

Landscape Use and Care: Papala is ideal for anyone who needs a taller tree for a shadier location. It also does fine in the full sun and can even handle short periods of drought but prefers a somewhat regular watering schedule. I’ve planted them under larger Koa trees and under the eves of houses and they do great. They also do well in pots for inside your home. As far as pests are concerned the only one that you should be on the lookout for is scales, especially the big brown domed shaped type. These are usually associated with ants that bring them to the plants so be sure to treat the ants as well as the scales to prevent an endless battle.

Additional Info: Do not get this plant, Papala, confused with another native plant called Papala kepau (Pisonia sp.). They are in no way related. Papala comes from the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), is related to other plants like kulu’i, Achyranthes and Amaranth, and is used for pyrotechnic displays while papala kepau is in the Four-o’clock family (Nyctaginaceae) and is used to catch birds.

Scientific Name: Pisonia umbellifera

Indigenous: All HI except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe

Description: Large shrubs or trees up to 30 ft. tall, loosely branched with big, dark green leaves. The nodes towards the stem tips are larger than most plants and look almost like knuckles. Beautiful pink flower clusters contrast well with the dark foliage when the plant is in bloom. After pollination the flowers develop into large, cigarette sized fruit which is covered in a sticky sap.

Distribution: This is an indigenous tree found on all the islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe in wet forests and valleys from about 300 ft. to 2400 ft. in elevation.

Cultural Uses: The sticky sap from the fruit was harvested and place on stems near flowers frequented by native forest birds. When the bird came to get nectar from the flower it would adhere to the branch, making it easier to gather to collect its feathers.

Landscape Uses and Care: Papala kepau do great in partially shaded areas. The grow habit of it makes it look very unique and prehistoric looking. Plus the blooms are an added bonus. Water it daily for a few weeks then a good soaking twice a week should be fine. This tree has very few branches but the ones it does have like to spread out so give this plant ample room to do that. Don’t be surprised to walk through your garden when this plant is large and come out with new papala kepau soles on your feet the fruit will stick to anything that lets it.

Extra Info: This plant also goes by just papala but there are other unrelated native plants called papala as well in the genus Charpentiera.

Scientific Name: Jaquemontia ovalifolia subsp. sandwicense

Also Known As: “The skirt of Hiiaka”

Endemic subspecies: All HI

Description: Prostrate strand plants with small, alternating leaves that are light to dark green in color. Delicate flowers about 1 inch in diameter emerge from the leaf axis and range in color from lavender to white. They often look like vines crawling on the ground, but can become quite thick in some areas. In dry regions, the stems may be covered with fuzzy soft hair that helps them adapt to the harsh conditions.

Distribution: This endemic subspecies is commonly found throughout the Hawaiian Islands on rocky coastal sites co-existing with other native strand flora like ‘ilima papa, nehe, hinahina and ‘alena.

Cultural Uses: Leaves of Pa’u o Hi’iaka were commonly used as a cathartic as well as to treat babies with thrush. The vine like runners were braided and used as a make shift lashing when other fibers were not available.

Landscape Use and Care: This is a great plant to use as a groundcover for places that are extremely dry and hot. Plant them about one foot apart to fill in nice and full. Soak the ground every other day initially, then slowly wean off. Depending on how large the planting area is, hundreds, if not thousands of flowers appear when in the plant is in bloom, which is normally constant after it becomes more established and watering is lessened.

Additional Info: Pa’u o Hi’iaka means skirt of Hi’iaka who is the younger of Pele, the fire goddess. The plant gets this name from a story that has Hi’iaka waiting on the beach for Pele who is out surfing. During this time Hi’iaka falls asleep and when Pele returns she finds that her younger sister has this vine draped over her to protect her from the sun.

Scientific Name: Rumex skottsbergii

Endemic: Hawaii Island

Description: Very unique, medium sized shrubs three to five feet tall with bright red stems and fairly thick leaves that are usually flat and elliptical in shape. Each leaf has a distinct yellow midrib that contrasts very well with the foliage and red stems. The petioles, which connect the leaf to the stem, are also red with green streaks. When in bloom a large inflorescence of greenish-yellow flowers protrude up above the plant. Once pollinated paper-like seed pods resembling those of ‘a’ali’i (Dodonea viscosa), only much smaller, develop.

Distribution: This species is naturally only found on the island of Hawai’i in both pahoehoe and ‘a’a lava fields of Kona, Puna and southern Ka’u. Other native species closely resembling this one can be found on the Big Island as well as other islands in the Hawaiian chain.

Cultural Uses: Although not commonly used, most likely due to the scarcity of the plant, the bright greenish-yellow flower clusters and seed pods look great in lei. This is one of those flowers that will make people say: “Aunty (or Uncle), what kine flower is dat in your lei? Unreal la dat!” and then you say: “Yeah, I know. It’s…….pawale” and den dey goin say: “Pa— what?” and den you say: “PAWALE, you know Rumex skottsbergii. ” and then watch the blank look on their face.

Landscape Use and Care: Like I said earlier, this plant is naturally found on lava fields (cooled down lava fields of course, not the molten kind, but still da buggah is hot!) so you want to plant it in the sunniest location of your garden, although it will handle partial shade, it will look best in full sun. Planting it around rocks or in a rocky location makes this plant really stand out and resembles its natural habitat making it feel at home. This plant also likes well drained soil and dry conditions, if you have well drained soil giving it a good soaking every 2-3 days is best, eventually after a few weeks cutting back the watering to only when needed. Few pests bother this plant with the exception of slugs that may chomp on new shoots.

Scientific Name: Heterogpogon contortus

Description: Pili grass forms bunches or tufts of light blueish-green leaf blades which range in height from two to three ft. tall. Their flowers, although insignificant in appearance, form spikelets at the top of the plant and often become tangled amongst each other. This dense cluster of seeds is most likely how the plant received its name since the word pili means to stick or cling to.

Distribution: Pili grass is an indigenous plant, or perhaps even a Polynesian introduction that is found in dry open areas, rocky cliffs or slopes near the ocean. It is found throughout the tropics as well as all of the main Hawaiian islands in scattered population. An interesting side note is that many of the Great Plains States utilize pili for in their restorations of grasslands and prairies. Its is probably safe to say that there is more pili grass growing out in those state’s than there is growing here in Hawai’i .

Cultural Uses: Pili was used in the past primarily for thatching houses and can still be used today for that purpose. It was also placed on hula altars for Laka in hopes that newly gained knowledge would pili, or stick in their minds.

Landscape Use and Care: Full sun in hot, dry areas are the best growing conditions for this plant. Pili is very easy to take care of and requires very little watering if any at all. Few pests bother this plant, although it is known that birds often prune off blades for nesting material. Right now pili grass is available at my nursery, Hui Ku Maoli Ola in Kane’ohe for only $2.50 each. I even have a large planting of it on a hill side to control erosion, at which it does an excellent job that people can view to see how it looks fully grown in.

Additional Info: This is probably what the “Little Grass Shack” in Kealakekua, Hawaii was made of. It should also be the material used in building the “Love Shack” since the word pili also means together, to be with, adhere to, join, etc… which are words often associated with lovers. The phrase pili aloha means close friend or beloved companion, so rather than giving your significant other a dozen roses, give her/him a bunch of pili grass to show how much you care. Just make sure you explain the meaning behind it.

Scientific Name: Vitex rotundifolia

Description: A sprawling shrub (2-3ft.) with rounded leaves that are silvery-green in color on top and whitish underneath. Small purple flowers form clusters which emerge at the top of the plant and sit in a pocket of the top leaves, very cool looking and it is definitely a striking site when a large area is in full bloom.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant meaning that it is native to Hawaii as well as other parts of the Pacific, even Japan! Here it is found on sandy coasts of all the main islands except Kaho’olawe although it may have occurred there in the past.

Cultural Uses: The fragrant leaves of this plant can be layered between folded kapa to repel insects but now days I guess you can put them in your BVD drawers. The leaves and flowers can also be arranged in head leis (lei po’o), very nice.

Landscape Uses and Care: An excellent plant for use in stabilizing soil. As it grows, the branches lean over and root at the nodes that are touching the ground. They make excellent ground covers for slopes that need help with erosion control. Generally, Pohinahina are quick growers and require very little water, they thrive in full sun. These plants respond well to pruning and can be formed into a low hedge; they also look great in pots for your lanai. To cover large areas, plant spacing of every two feet on center is close enough; they’ll fill in just fine. Few pests are known to bother this plant. I often refer to this plant as “Bullet Proof” because it is so hardy and easy to take care of. If you kill this plant then yes, your thumbs are brown.

Additional Info: Besides Pohinahina depending on which island you are on, this plant is also known as Kolokolo Kahakai, Hinahina Kolo, Manawanawa, Mawanawana, and here on O’ahu it is known as Polinalina.

Scientific Name: Vitex rotundifolia

Description: A sprawling shrub (2-3ft.) with rounded leaves that are silvery-green in color on top and whitish underneath. Small purple flowers form clusters which emerge at the top of the plant and sit in a pocket of the top leaves, very cool looking and it is definitely a striking site when a large area is in full bloom.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant meaning that it is native to Hawaii as well as other parts of the Pacific, even Japan! Here it is found on sandy coasts of all the main islands except Kaho’olawe although it may have occurred there in the past.

Cultural Uses: The fragrant leaves of this plant can be layered between folded kapa to repel insects but now days I guess you can put them in your BVD drawers. The leaves and flowers can also be arranged in head leis (lei po’o), very nice.

Landscape Uses and Care: An excellent plant for use in stabilizing soil. As it grows, the branches lean over and root at the nodes that are touching the ground. They make excellent ground covers for slopes that need help with erosion control. Generally, Pohinahina are quick growers and require very little water, they thrive in full sun. These plants respond well to pruning and can be formed into a low hedge; they also look great in pots for your lanai. To cover large areas, plant spacing of every two feet on center is close enough; they’ll fill in just fine. Few pests are known to bother this plant. I often refer to this plant as “Bullet Proof” because it is so hardy and easy to take care of. If you kill this plant then yes, your thumbs are brown.

Additional Info: Besides Pohinahina depending on which island you are on, this plant is also known as Kolokolo Kahakai, Hinahina Kolo, Manawanawa, Mawanawana, and here on O’ahu it is known as Polinalina.

Scientific Name: Ipomea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis

Also Known As: Beach Morning Glory

Indigenous: All HI including most of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands

Description: A prostrate vine, up to 30 ft. long, with thick glabrous leaves and large purple/pink flowers with dark purple centers, in rare circumstances, flower petals may be white with purple centers.

Distribution: This indigenous plant is found throughout the tropics, here it is naturally found on sandy beaches of all the main islands and a majority of the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Cultural Uses: Roots and leaves were pounded into a poultice for wounds,sores, and broken bones. Small amounts of roots and leaves were used for medicine and famine food, too much though, can be dangerous.

Landscape Uses and Care: Pohuehue is an excellent ground cover for dry, sunny areas and requires little watering once established. Its large purple flowers add great color to any garden. This plant is a very quick grower given daily watering but will fill in thicker with less watering and full sun. Because it is so attractive and easy to maintain, it’s a wonder why these plants aren’t seen in more landscapes.

Additional Info: Pohuehue was also slapped on the surface of the ocean to encourage large surf when the waves were small.

Scientific Name: Bidens cosmoides

Endemic

Scientific Name: Solanum americanum

Indigenous

Description: Small herbs about 2-4 ft tall. Black berries highly valued for medicinal qualities.

Distribution: This native Hawaiian plant is found through out coastal to low lands, often found in disturbed areas.

Landscape Uses and Care: Few to no pests ensures that this plant is easy to grow

Additional Information: Of the four different species of popolo native to Hawaii, this one is the only indigenous and edible species. Meaning it is native to Hawaii and other parts of the world plus you can eat it. The young leaves can be steamed and the fruit were eaten by many people.

Scientific Name: Solanum nelsonii

Endemic

Description: A large shrub or small tree up to 12 feet tall with light green to almost yellowish foliage. Each leaf is rough in appearance, with somewhat ruffled lobes on the margins. A light brown pubescence, which is heavier on younger leaves, covers both the underside and top of the leaf. White flowers hang facing down with a purple stripe on the center of each flower petal. Once pollinated, they develop into shiny black berries.

Landscape Uses and Care: Full sun and minimal water.

Scientific Name: Solanum sandwicense

Endemic – Endangered

Description: A large shrub or small tree up to 12 feet tall with light green to almost yellowish foliage. Each leaf is rough in appearance, with somewhat ruffled lobes on the margins. A light brown pubescence, which is heavier on younger leaves, covers both the underside and top of the leaf. White flowers hang facing down with a purple stripe on the center of each flower petal. Once pollinated, they develop into shiny black berries.

Distribution: Extremely rare. This native Hawaiian plant is only known to exist in the mesic forests of Oahu and Kauai; however, its natural population on Oahu is now considered to be extinct. Luckily, seeds were harvested before the last plant died, so now there are a few plants left in cultivation and a handful planted back into the wild.

Cultural Uses: There are no known cultural uses for this particular plant. However, there is another more commonly known popolo plant (Solanum americanum) that is highly valued for its medicinal uses. I wouldn’t use this plant in any manner as you would the other popolo, since the translation of popolo’aiakeakua literally means “the popolo eaten by the god,” and that doesn’t sound like a good thing if you’re human.

Landscape Uses and Care: This is definitely a plant to have if you are into natives. It’s not often that you can have a naturally extinct plant in your garden that has a look both prehistoric and exotic. Few pests bother this plant, and it requires little watering once established. Plant it in full sun or partial shade and enjoy a true living Hawaiian jewel.

Scientific Name: Hibiscus arnotiianus

Endemic: O’ahu

Description: Unreal shrubs or small trees up to 20 ft. tall or more, but usually stay in the 6-8 foot range. These plants have dark green foliage, which is more glabrous than most species of native white hibiscus. The most attractive feature of this plant is its beautiful white and also fragrant flowers which emerge at the tips of branches. In the morning, the flowers open up and are a brilliant white and by the end of two days they slowly fade to a light pink and begin to close up before falling off. The petals of this hibiscus are very robust and thick which enable it to stay open for so long and which also adds to it’s stronger than normal fragrance. The stem tips of this variety is also dark maroon which makes the plant attractive even when not in bloom.

Distribution: This exceedingly rare native white hibiscus is endemic to the mesic forests of O’ahu in both the Ko’olau and Wai’anae mtn. ranges

Landscape Use: As with most hibiscuses, the pualoalo can be trimmed into a beautiful, highly colorful hedge or left alone to be admired as a specimen plant. It is very wind, sun and drought tolerant and is resistant to the unattractive bumps from gall mites that seem to plague most hybrid hibiscus. This is yet another perfect native plant for any garden. Hint: plant this plant in front of a dark background like a rock wall or ti hedge to really show off the flowers! Watch out for aphids and whitefly, if you do notice them treat the plant by either shooting them off with a water hose or spraying them with pesticide. If you follow the directions on the bottle you should have good results.

Cultural Uses: The flowers of Hibiscus were eaten as a laxative and some sources say that the native red hibiscus were eaten by girls and women while the white hibiscus were eaten by boys and men. In addition the flowers were also strung into lei but today it is most often put behind the ear.

Scientific Name: Cyperus trachysanthos

Endemic Endangered: Oahu, Kauai

Description: Puukaa are beautiful sedges with long, graceful leaf blades that are very narrow and light green in color. The plant will reach a height of a little over three feet tall and it sends out short rhizomes to form dense tufts rather than long runners so they don’t spread too far. Within these long leaf blades emerges a tall stalk with several round clusters of spikelets (cyperus form of flowers) on top, as seen in the photo. These stalks will stand out taller than the rest of the plant and are an attractive feature.

Distribution: This federally listed endangered species is endemic to Hawaii and was once found on the islands of Niihau, Molokai, Lana’i, Oahu and Kauai but is now believed to only exist on the latter two. In the wild it is found in wetter conditions like pond margins or seasonal marshes.

Landscape use and care: This plant can be placed in or around water features as well as in the soil as long as it is watered regularly. Pruning of dead leaves keeps this plant looking full and beautiful. It looks great when planted along side rock features or as an accent combined with plants like groundcovers or other plants from which it can “burst” up out of. Pu’uka’a can also be added to dry floral arrangements to add some real flair. Few pests bother this plant but occasionally you may find some aphids on the new shoots, these can be taken care of simply by running your fingers up the leaf. Be careful though because the leaf blades are so slender that once they are bent and creased they won’t perk back up.

Additional information: One of the few remnant populations of this plant was at a place called Kealakipapa more commonly known as Allen Davis or the place where everyone parks to hike up to the Makapu’u lighthouse, the reason I say was is because recently this area fell victim to a brush fire that burned approximately 50 acres of land including the vernal pond in which this plant lived and numerous other native plants. Hopefully this population has not become extinct.

Scientific Name: Tetramalopium filiforme

Also Known As: Oahu Daisy

Endemic, Endangered

Description: Cute, dwarflike shrub, very compact in form (up to 8 inches), with soft, green, featherlike leaves. It has small, purple daisy flowers that stand erect above the plant and dance when the wind blows. The seeds of this plant form such as the ones of dandelions and are carried away by the wind. As far as I know, there is no documentation for the Hawaiian name of this particular plant species, hence the name Oahu daisy. Other species of this same genus are called pamakani, meaning “to blow in the wind,” which matches the description of this species perfectly.

Distribution: This endangered species is only found on the dry, windswept ridges of Ohikilolo and Keaau Valley in the Waianae Mountains of Oahu.

Landscape Uses and Care: Tetramalopium look great planted around the base of stones or as low accents around other plants. They also do fine in pots for on the lanai or near a sunny window. These plants are naturally found in fairly dry areas, therefore require very little watering to survive. Too much watering could eventually cause the roots to rot. Full sun is the best for these plants to thrive.

Care: Full Sun – Partial Shade – Light to Moderate Watering – Anklel Biter

Scientific Name: Ipomea batatas

Also Known As: Hawaiian Sweet Potato

Polynesian Introduction: All HI

Description: There are many different forms of Hawaiian cultivars of ‘uala, each usually with a different name. Leaf types range from triangle and heart-shaped to lobed and webbed such as the ‘uala piko variety shown here. Even the tuberous roots vary in shape and color. The different cultivars are similar in that they all generally have pinkish-purple (sometimes whitish-purple), morning glory-type flowers that creep along the ground like a vine.

Distribution: Originating from South America, the sweet potato was carried throughout Polynesia and the Pacific. In Hawaii it is a Polynesian introduction that was found at one time on all the inhabited islands.

Cultural uses: This is one of the most important plants in Hawaiian culture. Historically, ‘uala has been used for food, medicine, ritual practices and countless everyday uses. The young stems, leaves and tubers are cooked for food; the tubers also can be mashed to make ‘uala ho’omalamala, which is eaten like poi, or the mashed ‘uala can be mixed with water and left to ferment to make a sweet potato beer called ‘uala ‘awa’awa.

The leaves, stems and milky sap are used to treat ailments, and nursing mothers wore leis of ‘uala with dripping sap to ensure good milk flow. ‘Uala also is used to fatten pigs and as bait for catching ‘opelu. The dried leaves can also be used as extra padding under lau hala or makaloa mats.

Landscape Uses and Care: With its dense growth and lovely purple flowers, ‘uala looks great as a ground cover. It is also effective at controlling soil erosion. In the accompanying picture, the plant is growing on a steep slope but is still doing a great job at keeping the soil in place.

‘Uala loves full sun and doesn’t need too much water to stay happy. Once planted, the ‘uala should be ready to harvest in about six to eight months. Traditionally, it was planted on hillsides or in raised planter beds; this allowed for easier access to the tubers without damaging the rest of the plant.

Additional Info: More than 200 cultivars of ‘uala were once recognized in Hawaii. Today, only about 20 are known to exist. The rest have been lost.

Scientific Name: Caesalpinia kavaiense

Endangered, Endemic: Kauai, Oahu, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii

Description: Large shrubs or trees up to 30 feet tall with light green pinnate leaves, grayish colored bark and strikingly beautiful red flowers.

Distribution: Extremely rare, this plant is now listed as an endangered species as is found in very limited numbers in the dry forest on Kaua’i, in the Wai’anae Mountains on O’ahu, Lana’i, West Maui and North Kona on the island of Hawai’i.

Cultural Uses: The very hardwood (comparable to kauila and mehamehame) was used as house posts, for spears, holua sleds and ‘o’o while the flowers were strung into lei.

Landscape Uses and Care: Full sun and well drained soil is best for this plant to thrive. Very little if any water is needed once this plant is established. Watch out for twig borers which slowly kill the tree limb by limb. You’ll notice it from tiny pin holes with black mold around it spewing out a gel like sap. Cut the infected areas off and treat the plant with a systemic pesticide.

Extra Info: The hale pili inside of Bishop Museum came from Miloli’i and has posts made of ‘Uhi’uhi.

Scientific Name: Cladium jamaicense

Indigenous: All HI except Niihau and Kahoolawe

Description: These are tall, gorgeous, dark green sedges with very narrow serrated blades that gently curving back as they go up. At full growth I’ve seen this plant reach about 6 ft. tall! That’s pretty big in the sedge world. But usually in landscapes it will get about 4 ft. The plant sends out rhizomes horizontally which emerge above the surface as solitary bunches, but, they don’t run out and spread it usually maintains a single cluster. The flowers, or spikelets, are golden brown and protrude up on tall stems above the plant. This is easily one of the most attractive and striking foliage plants from the sedge family.

Distribution: This indigenous sedge is found on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and Hawaii. Its natural habitat is usually in wet areas like marshes, ponds, and along banks of streams. Although I’ve seen them growing in much dryer habitats like coastal cliffs and coastal hanging valleys.

Landscape Use and Care: These sedges look great in any water feature or any place with moist soil or regular watering. We’ve used them as accent plants before but sometimes their beauty distracts from what they are supposed to only accent. Their height and stature add great depth and texture to any landscape. Don’t let it’s natural habitat fool you, once it has become established in the ground watering can be cut back to two maybe three times a week depending on how fast your soil drains. Given this and lots of sunlight, the plant will do fine. I don’t even know of any pests that bother it either. Got a constant wet spot in your yard that won’t let anything grow? Try ‘uki.

Additional Info: There are several different species of native monocots called ‘uki or that have ‘uki as one of its names, for example, a different native sedge (Machaerina mariscoides) often called ‘ahanui also goes by the name ‘uki.

Scientific Name: Dianella sandwicense

Indigenous: All HI except Niihau and Kahoolawe

Description: From what I have seen there are two basic forms of ‘uki’uki found through out the state. One form has a more compact growth habit, only about 1-1.5 ft. tall (from now on this one will be referred to as the ‘short’ one) while the other has a taller, less compact look to it and can grow to about 2.5-3 ft. tall (we’ll call this one the ‘taller’ one). Both are beautiful lilies but in their own way. The short one (as seen in the picture above) has dark green leaf blades and when in bloom it sends up a short stalk in the middle of the foliage that is covered with small purple and yellow flowers that once pollinated develop into dark purple or even lavender berries about ½”-1” in diameter. The seeds of this form are black, smooth and extremely glossy. The taller one has lighter green foliage and sends out a taller stalk with much more of the same small flowers but these are usually white and yellow and once they are pollinated the fruit that develop are more transparent looking and not as vibrant purple color, sometimes they look brown and the seeds are not glossy and smooth like the short one, instead they are rough and come in a variety of shapes.

Distribution: All forms of ‘uki’uki are classified as indigenous meaning that they are native to Hawai’i but also other parts of the world. These plants are found in many different vegetation zones from lowland dry forests to higher wet forests, in fact, I’ve seen it growing near the ocean around naupaka as well as in the marsh on the top of Mount Ka’ala and practically everywhere else in between. ‘Uki’uki is found on all the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe, although they most likely occurred there in the past.

Cultural Uses: The leaves can be used for thatching while the berries of the short one make a nice bluish-purple dye for kapa while the taller one usually makes a yellowish-brown dye. As delicious as the berries look, don’t eat them they don’t taste ono at all and they turn your whole mouth blue, trust me I know.

Landscape Uses and Care: This is one of the most durable plants you can have. It does well in practically any growing condition from full sun to practically full shade, outdoors to indoors, moderate water to little water, just about anything. I prefer to use it as an accent plant around large boulders or at the base of larger plants and shrubs. You can even plant it as a mass ground cover but because it grows as a clump and not a runner you will need more of it to cover an area. The only pests to watch out for are white scales and mealy bugs. If you do notice them on the underside of the leaves, they can be manually removed by either shooting them off with water or by cleaning them off with your fingers using soapy water. The plant can also be treated with any store bought pesticide but most likely it is probably ants that are bringing the scales and the mealy bugs to the plants so make sure you treat the ant problem as well. It’s flexibility to handle many types of environments makes this plant ideal for any landscape and in the future I see its popularity increasing tremendously.

Amazing shrubs with dark, glossy, pinnate leaves and very fragrant white flower clusters. These are one of my most favorite smelling native flowers. The flowers develop into white fleshy, fruit that ripen purple and contain up to four seeds inside. Generally this is a low crawling plant usually under four feet tall but some specimens on Maui and Hawai’i are well over twenty feet!

Scientific Name: Osteomeles anthylidifolia

Indigenous: All HI except Niihau and Kahoolawe

Description: Amazing shrubs with dark, glossy, pinnate leaves and very fragrant white flower clusters. These are one of my most favorite smelling native flowers. The flowers develop into white fleshy, fruit that ripen purple and contain up to four seeds inside. Generally this is a low crawling plant usually under four feet tall but some specimens on Maui and Hawai’i are well over twenty feet!

Distribution: This indigenous plant is commonly found in a wide range of habitats from near the ocean on cliffs all the way up through the lowland dry forest and mesic forests on all of the main islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

Cultural Uses: The hard wood of the larger specimens were made into ‘o’o, fishing spears, and the musical instrument ‘ukeke. The branches were bent into fishnet hoops as well as fashioned into arrow shafts. The leaves, flowers and fruit were also woven into lei and sometimes the fruit was eaten. Its no blueberry or strawberry but it tastes pretty good when eaten on the trail and you’ve been hiking for six hours and have absolutely nothing else to eat.

Landscape Uses and Care: This a great addition to any garden from a specimen plant, to a low hedge or a mass planting on a slope, it all looks good. It can even be shaped into a perfectly round ball about five feet in diameter. Few pests bother this one and its shiny leaves and beautiful flower clusters are awesome features. Once its established in the ground you don’t even have to worry about watering.

Extra Info: Other names for this plant include u’ulei or on Moloka’i its called eluehe. ‘Ulei is one of four native plants in the Rose family along with ‘ohelo papa our native strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis), and two species of ‘akala (Rubus hawaiensis and R. macraei) our native raspberries. Now those buggahs are ono, better to use the ‘ulei fruit in lei instead.

Also its very important to pronounce ‘ulei correctly emphasizing the ‘i’ at the end (oolayee) otherwise in Hawaiian it will sound like a particular part of the male anatomy. Trust me, I can’t hold back the tears of laughter when people are describing their ‘ulei plant but are lazy in the correct pronunciation saying things like “my ‘ulei is so bushy”, or my ‘ulei looks so sick” or my favorite “people can smell my ‘ulei from twenty feet away!” Actually my most favorite mispronunciation of ‘ulei is when people come to purchase it from my nursery and upon seeing it remark “Wow Rick, you have the nicest ‘ulei I’ve ever seen!”

Scientific Name: Erythrina sandwicensis

Endemic

Description: Deciduous trees up to 40 feet tall with light green leaves, reddish-tan bark, and creamy green to dark orange-colored flowers that develop into seed pods with bright orange seeds. Sharp thorns develop on the trunk and branches. The thorns begin to fade as the tree ages.

Distribution: This endemic plant is found on coastal-lowland dry forests on all the main islands.

Cultural Uses: The light wood is used culturally for constructing canoe outriggers, floats and surfboards. The seeds and individual flowers were strung into lei.

Landscaping Uses and Care: Wiliwili does well in any sunny, dry area. Initial watering is OK for establishment but the plant can be weaned completely, making it one of the easiest plants to care for.

Extra Information: MANY NON-NATIVE species of Erythrina are being grown in Hawaii and they are called Wiliwili. This misleads people into thinking that all Wiliwili are native, but there is really only one and the Erythrina sandwicensis is it.