ʻŪlei belong to the very large Rose family (Rosaceae) of nearly 3,000 species.Though ʻūlei is indigenous, there are three other endemic members: Hawaiian strawberry or ʻōhelo papa (Fragaria chiloensis subsp. sandwicensis), and two species Hawaiian raspberries or ʻākala (Rubus hawaiensis & R. macraei). All have edible fruit, but range from bland to bitter to sweet.
The generic name Osteomeles comes from the Greek osteon, bone, and melon, apple, in reference to the pome-type fruit with its hard endocarps (seed shell). The specific epithet anthyllidifolia literally means “with Anthyllis-like leaves.” Anthyllis is a genus of plants in the Fabaceae or Pea family.
Eluehe is a Molokaʻi name for this plant.ʻŪlei are one of the few native Hawaiian plants that can often survive fires and resprout from stem bases. The strong flexible branches were looped to make round fish nets. The very hard reddish brown wood was fashioned into digging sticks (ʻōʻō), long spears for catching octopus, kapa beaters, ʻūkēkē boards (musical instrument), back scratchers, carrying poles (ʻauamo) for water and food, and short tapered sticks to play the game of paheʻe. ʻŪlei wood was fashioned into spears for the games of spear throwing (ʻōʻō ihe) and spear fencing (kākā lāʻau).
The small sweet fruits were eaten and is similar to rose petals. Early Hawaiians used the seeds and buds as a laxative for babies. [1,6] The leaves, root bark and salt were pounded together and the liquid used for deep cuts. The white fruit produced a lavender to purple dye for kapa (tapa). The fruit and flowers of ʻūlei were used in lei making. Flowers and leaves of ʻūlei are still used in lei making.