Nehe are members of the Sunflower or Aster family (Asteraceae). There fourteen endemic species of Melanthera in the Hawaiian Islands. The taxonomic genus name has been changed from Lipochaeta to Melanthera. Melanthera integrifolia hybridizes with Lipochaeta lobata subsp. lobata at Kaʻena Pt., Oʻahu. The hybrids produce nearly sterile seed.
The Greek generic name Melanthera means black-stamened-one. The specific epithet integrifolia is derived from the Latin integra, with entire, and folius, leaves. One older source (Charles Gaudichaud,1819) states that Hawaiians “used all fragrant plants, all flowers and even colored fruits” for lei making. The red or yellow were indicative of divine and cheifly rank; the purple flowers and fruit, or with fragrance, were associated with divinety. Because of their long-standing place in oral tradition, the flowers of nehe were likely used for lei making by early Hawaiians, even though there are no written sources. Nehe flowers continue to be used in lei making.