Hawaiian Native Species Index

They came by air and by sea: seeds and spores that sailed on the ocean currents, drifted high in the atmosphere, and hitched rides with migratory birds. Once every 100,000 years, a new plant made a lucky landfall and established itself in the young, isolated Hawaiian Islands. And then, often, it evolved. When Polynesians arrived in Hawaii, they found an archipelago already teeming with a diverse native flora. These plants, many found nowhere else on earth, became part of the medicine, the worship, the knowledge and the everyday lives—in short, part of the culture—of Hawaii before Western contact.

  • Akia

    Wikstroemia uva-ursi

    Wikstroemia uva-ursa, known as Akia in Hawaiian, is only found in Hawaii, which makes it endemic. Used by Hawaiians as a fish poison so the men throwing nets could catch more fish. Common now throughout Hawaii, originally rare, found in coastal areas of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui. Easy to […]

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  • Ohelo

    Vaccinium reticulatum

    Vaccinium reticulatum, known as ʻŌhelo ʻai in Hawaiian, is a species of flowering plant in the heather family, Ericaceae, that is endemic to Hawai’i. It grows at altitudes of 640–3,700 m (2,100–12,100 ft) on lava flows and freshly distributed volcanic ash on Maui and Hawai’i, and less commonly on Kauai,Oahu, […]

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  • Milo

    Thespesia populnea

    The generic name Thespesia is derived from the Greek thespesios, divine, referring to T. populnea, which was collected in Tahiti by Captain Cook’s expedition in 1769 and was reported to be a sacred tree and planted around places of worship. The specific epithet populnea, poplar-like, likely in reference to the […]

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  • Pukiawe

    Styphelia Tameiatameiae

    Styphelia tameiameiae is occurs in a variety of forms ranging from low, spreading shrubs to small erect trees. In the tree form, it can grow up to 15 feet tall. The bark is brown to black and rough, especially on the larger stems. The bark on the slender twigs is […]

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  • ‘Aki’aki Grass

    Sporobolus Virginicus

    Sporobolus virginicus, known as ʻAkiʻaki in Hawaiian, belongs to the Poaceae (Grass family). Of the seven or eight species now found in Hawaii, only this species is indigenous. The genus name Sporobolus is derived from the Greek sporos, seed, and ballein, to throw, in reference to the fruit (the pericarp) […]

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  • Mamane

    Sophora Chrysophylla

    Sophora chrysophylla is a large shrub or medium sized tree up to 50 feet tall. The branches are golden brown with ridges running along them. Each leaf consists of 6 to 10 pairs of oval leaflets. The light green leaflets range in size from 3/8 to 2 inches long and […]

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  • Ohai

    Sesbania Tomentosa

    Sesbania tomentosa is a variable species. It is usually a low, spreading shrub with horizontal or arching branches; it is can also have a treelike habit up to 15 feet tall. In the wild, a single plant can cover a large area, but in cultivation it will tend to be […]

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  • Naupaka

    Scaevola coriacea

    Ten species of naupaka (Scaevola spp.) are native to the Hawaiian Islands in the Goodenia family or Goodeniaceae. The genus name comes from the Greek, scaevus, meaning left-handed or awkward, perhaps referring to the signature half-flowers resembling an open fan or hand. The feature species is one of two native […]

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  • Iliahialoe

    Santalum ellipticum

    This Sandalwood is endemic to Hawaii and found throughout the state. Grows to a height of 30 feet and can get 10 feet in width. Fragrant flowers and fragrant heart wood is what this tree was prized for. This type of Sandalwood grows from sea level to an elevation of […]

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  • Alahe’e

    Psydrax Odorata

    Psydrax odorata, known as Alaheʻe in Hawaiian, is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and found in habitats that vary such as shrubland to dry, mesic and wet forests from about 30 to over 3,800 feet. Belonging to the Coffee family (Rubiaceae), alaheʻe is locally renown for its wonderfully fragrant flowers […]

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  • Loulu

    Pritchardia spp.

    Pritchardia are single trunked palm trees with fan-shaped leaves. The Hawaiian Pritchardia are generally medium to large sized palms growing from 25 to 60 feet tall. The color and hairiness of the leaves, the length of the flowering stems, and the size and color of the fruit vary by species. […]

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  • Ohe makai

    Polyscias Sandwicensis

    ʻOhe makai belongs to the Ginseng family (Araliaceae), which also includes other native trees such as ʻōlapa (Cheirodendron spp.), munroidendron or pōkalakala, and ʻohe mauka. The non-native and invasive octopus tree or heʻe (Schefflera actinophylla) is also in this same family. The former generic name Reynoldsia is named on behalf […]

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  • Halapepe

    Plemele Auwahiensis

    The generic name Pleomele is derived from the Greek pleon, many, and melon, apple, in reference to the large inflorescence that produce many fruits. The specific epithet auwahiensis refers to Auwahi, Maui, a remnant native dry forest set aside to preserve native flora of Maui. This hala pepe is among […]

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  • Hoawa

    Pittosporum hosmeri

    Hoawa in Hawaiian, Pittosporum hosmeri, is part of a family that has about 150 species of Pittosporum throughout Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and on a number of Pacific Islands, including the Hawaiian Islands with eleven endemic species. The generic name Pittosporum is derived from the Greek pittos, pitch, and […]

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  • Lauae fern

    Phymatosorus grossus

    Phylmatosorus grossus, known as Lauae fern in Hawaiians, is from old world tropics with scattered, erect, usually lobed fronds up to three feet high, arising from black-scaly, creeping horizontal stems at the soil surface, or epiphytic on other plants. The leaves commonly emit an odor reminiscent of vanilla and are […]

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  • Hala

    Pandanus tectorius

    Hala are indigenous to Hawaii ranging as far as Australia. Fossil records show that they arrived here well before the first humans. The list of uses from this tree is extensive; the root made a dye, the leaves were woven into clothing, the fruits were cooked and eaten, and the […]

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  • U’ulei

    Osteomeles Anthyllidifolia

    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 […]

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  • Naio

    Myoporum Sandwicense

    Myoporum sandwicensis, known as Naio in Hawaiian, is a family comprising 4 genera and about 220 species from Australia, eastern Asia, and Pacific islands, with one monotypic genus Bonita L. in the west Indies and northern South America. The wood has a fragrance like honey and was confused with sandalwood. […]

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  • Mai`a – Banana

    Musa Acuminata

    Musa acuminata/ Musa sapientum, known as Mai`a in Hawaiian, usually grows in moist areas that are either wind protected, planted around dwellings, or on well-watered banks of taro lo`i. It can grow on median forest belts from an altitude of 1500 to 3000 ft. and on lower fringes of the […]

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  • Ohia Lehua

    Metrosideros Polymorpha

    Metrosideros polymorpha is an extremely variable plant. It ranges in habit from a prostrate shrub to a 100 foot tree. Young bark is smooth and light gray and becomes rough and scaly with age. In the landscape or garden, Metrosideros polymorpha is generally no larger than 40 feet tall and […]

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  • Nehe

    Melanthera Integrifolia

    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 […]

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  • Kupukupu fern

    Nephrolepis Cordifolia

    Kupupukupu (Nephrolepis spp.) are members of Lomariopsidaceae. There are several common naturalized swordferns and will hybridize with the native species. This is the only Nephrolepis species, or swordfern, in Hawaii that produce underground tubers on the stolons. The generic name Nephrolepis is derived from the Greek nephros, kidney, and lepis, […]

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  • Hau hele ula

    Kokia Cookei

    Kokia cookei is considered one of the rarest and most endangered plant species in the world. In 1910, a single living tree was discovered within the general area of the initial sighting and may in fact, have been one of theoriginal trees. In 1915, this last remaining wild specimen was […]

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  • Kalo-Taro

    Kalocasia spp.

    Hawaii primarily grows wetland taro, or kalo in Hawaiian, in patches (lo`i) These patches are directly irrigated from rivers or streams, which is beneficial, because taro thrives best in aerated moving water. They can tolerate swampy or marshy conditions and a fair level of acidity. Best adapted in warm, moist, […]

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  • Pa u o hiiaka

    Jacquemontia sandwicensis

    Pāʻuohiʻiaka is a member of the Morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), which comprises some 1,650 species throughout the world. Recently, this native plant has been raised to a specific level as Jacquemontia sandwicensis, where formely it was considered as an endemic subspecies. One non-native relative, the Skyblue clustervine (Jacquemontia pentantha), is […]

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  • Beach Mornining Glory

    Ipomoea pes-caprae

    The beach morning glory or Goat’s foot, is a common tropical creeping vine, belonging to the family of Convolvulaceae. It grows on the upper parts of beaches and endures salted air. It is one of the most common and most widely distributed salt tolerant plants and provides one of the […]

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  • Kokio keokeo

    Hibiscus Waimea

    Hibiscus waimeae is a small, gray-barked tree up to 30 feet tall. The upper surface of the leaves is light green while the lower surface is covered with velvety hairs which makes it appear grayish. The round or oval leaves are 2 to 7 inches long and 1 to 5 […]

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  • Kokio ulaula

    Hibiscus Kokio St Johnianus

    Restricted in dry to mesic forests on northwestern Kauaʻi. The generic name Hibiscus is derived from hibiscos, the Greek name for mallow. The specific and subspecific epithet kokio comes from the Hawaiian name for this hibiscus. The subspecies is named after Harold St. John (1892-1991), a professor of botany at […]

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  • Kokio kea

    Hibiscus arnottianus spp. immaculatus

    This subspecies of kokiʻo keʻokeʻo is extremely rare in its native habitat on Molokaʻi where the few remaining plants grow in wet to mesic forests (50-1600 ft.).The generic name Hibiscus is derived from hibiscos, the Greek name for mallow. The specific and subspecific epithets are named in behalf of George […]

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  • Kokio ula

    Hibiscus Clayii

    Kokiʻo ʻula is found in a few dry forests of eastern Kauaʻi. The generic name Hibiscus is derived from hibiscos, the Greek name for mallow. In 1928, Albert W. Duvel discovered several small hibiscus trees on Kauaʻi that were damaged by cattle. He brought them into cultivation, which proved to […]

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  • Hau kuahiwi

    Hibiscadelphus Distans

    Hibiscadelphus distans is a shrub or small tree that grows up to 5 meters tall. The leaves are heart-shaped, typically 4-10 cm in length, with irregular (rounded) serations on the margins. Both upper and lower leaf surfaces have branched stellate (star-shaped) hairs. Unlike most other Hawaiian members of the Mallow […]

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  • Nanu

    Gardenia Brighami

    Nāʻū or nānū (Gardenia brighamii) is one of several members of the Coffee family (Rubiaceae) native to Hawaii. The featured species and the two other endemic gardenias, G. mannii of Oʻahu, and G. remyi from Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, Maui and Hawaiʻi Island (Hilo and Puna districts), are all federally listed as […]

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  • Ukiuki

    Dianella Sandwicensis

    The genus Dianella, has gone through some family changes recently. Once was in the Lily family (Liliaceae). Then, in the Daylily family or Hermerocallidaceae. Now Dianella is placed in the Xanthorrhoeaceae. ʻUkiʻuki (D. sandwicensis) is the sole family representative native to the Hawaiian Islands. The generic name Dianella is from […]

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  • Hau Kuahiwi

    Hibicadelphus Haualalaiensis

    Hibiscadelphus hualalaiensis, of the mallow family (Malvaceae), is a tree 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft) tall with a trunk up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter and whitish bark. The leaf blades are heart‐shaped and 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) long with a […]

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  • Pamakani

    Viola chamissoniana

    Many species are specific to one island, or even—as with this white-flowered relative of garden-variety violets—a single mountain range. Endangered Viola chamissoniana can be found only on three remote, rocky ridges in Oahu’s Waianae Range.

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  • Koa

    Acacia Koa

    Acacia koa is a large tree becoming 50 feet tall in cultivation, but very old trees can become much taller. At maturity, the trees are 10 to 25 feet in diameter. The “leaves” are not true leaves; they are modified leaf stems, or phyllodes, which function as leaves. These crescent-shaped […]

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  • Ulu-Breadfruit

    Artocarpus altilis

    Artocarpus altilis, ‘Ulu in Hawaiian, Its beauty stands out in any garden. Easily 40-60 feet tall, with branches that span a similar-size diagonally. The sensual, dark-green lobed leaves of the breadfruit tree form a tapestry from which lime-green globes grow. The fruit can weigh up to 10 pounds each. The […]

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  • Kukui

    Aleurites Moluccana

    The Kukui or Candlenut tree is the state tree of Hawaii. In Hawaii, the tree has a spiritual significance of hope and renewal. As the most common of Hawaii’s forest trees, the kukui tree can grow up to 80 feet tall. Because of its fragrant white flowers, and of course […]

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  • Ti plant

    Cordyline Fruticosa

    Cordyline fruticosa, Ti plant, also known as the good luck plant, is an evergreen, flowering plant in the family Liliaceae, formerly treated in the families Agavaceae and Laxmanniaceae. It is a woody plant that grows up to 4 m tall, with leaves 30-60 cm (rarely 75 cm) long and 5-10 […]

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  • Kou

    Cordia Subcordata

    Crodia subcordata, known as Kou in Hawaiian, has distinctive orange flowers and large tan fruit. This tree originated in Africa and Madagascar. They are wide spread through the tropics. There is a close relative from tropical Americas on also the islands. It has darker orange flowers, fuzzy leaves, and white […]

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