dlnrnativegardenrestoration has written 51 posts for Native Plants of Hawaii

Velvet tree


Scientific Name: Miconia calvescens

This invasive plant produces massive 3 foot long leaves that creates a dense canopy that smothers all other life.  This plants also has a shallow root system that increased erosion compared to native plants.  A single Velvet tree can produce over 3 million seeds that remain viable for up to 5 years.  This plant is such a threat that if allowed to run wild could take over 1/4 of the total land in Oahu.( Image by Forest and Starr)


Strawberry Guava

* Invasive

Scientific Name:Psidium cattleianum

This invasive plant is very common in the forests and along hiking trails. Strawberry Guava plants have no natural enemies and forms a thick cover that smothers native species. This smothering destroys the habitat and means of food  for  many other native animals. A Study by UH shows that areas invaded with strawberry guava wastes 27% more water than Native forests.  A insect that attacks this plant has recently  been released as a biocontrol that will hopefully limit the spread of this plant. ( Image by Forest and Starr)

Ohia Lehua

Scientific Name: Metrosideros polymorpha

Hawaiian Name: Ohia Lehua, Ohia

The Ohia is one of the most common Native Hawaiian Tree. An attribute to this  plants commonality is that it can be found in a wide range of habitats and can range from small shrubs to 98 foot trees.  This plant has  distinct flowery tuffs that come in colors of red, pink, orange, white and yellow.  The flowers are also sacred to the Hawaiian Lava god Pele. This common plant also is an essential part of the Hawaiian watershed  The Hawaiians used the wood was used for flooring, firewood, and kapa( bark cloth) beaters.

Lace Fern

Scientific name: Microlepia strigosa

Hawaiian Name: Palapalai, Palai

The palapalai fern is quite attractive and tends to prefer wetter shady areas. This plant was used by the Hawaiians to treat insanity and  remains very  popular in many hula leis and garments. The fern is sacred to the Hula god Laka and contains a fragrance that remains even when dried.

Pili Grass

Scientific Name:  Heterogpogon contortus

Hawaiian name: Pili, Lule

This plant was the Hawaiians’ choice grass to be used for thatching. The common use of this plant helped  Hawaiian houses earn the title of “grass shacks” The Hawaiians also used this plant for dye and as flooring pad. This grass is used to restore the United States Great Plains’ grasslands and prairies.( Image by Forest and Starr)


Scientific Name: sida fallax

Hawaiian Name: Ilima

Ilima is a common plant that thrives in sunny and hot conditions. This plant was prized for it’s beautiful flowers that were strung into delicate leis. This is the offical flower for Oahu. However, many people don’t know that this flower is actually edible and can be eaten in salads.

Hawaiian Rockwort

Scientific Name: Nototrichium sandwicense

Hawaiian Name: Kului

This native plant has silvery leaves and is very popular among landscapers. This plant is drought resistant so it’s good for those looking to create a xeriscaping garden. The Hawaiians packed the flowers and wood of this plant in bamboo and would toss it over a cliff to create something similar to a firework display.

Coconut Tree

* Polynesian Introduced

Scientific Name: Cocos nucifer

Hawaiian Name Niu

This is probably  both the most recognizable palm tree and Hawaiian plant in the world.  The  Hawaiians used this plants’ fronds extensively for weaving.  The fruit can also be eaten, in green form as a jello, or brown form as a tough meat.  Incredibly, the fruit is edible  for up 5 months while on a tree. Unlike in many TV shows and movies, coconuts actually have a fibrous husk surrounding the fruit that must be removed before cracking.


*Polynesian Introduced

Scientific Name: Cordyline terminalis

Hawaiian Names: Ki, Ti

This plant was another introduction by the Hawaiians  to  Hawaii.  They used the Ti plant had a wide range of uses, ranging from, wrappings for food, thatching, medical purposes,  plates, and clothes.  The plant also was considered sacred to the god of agriculture ( Lono) and the godess of hula (Laka). An incredible demonstration of the use as a rain coat can be found here. 


* Polynesian Introduced

Scientific Name: Colocasia esculent

Hawaiian Name: Kalo

This plant represented the God Kane who the Hawaiians considered the creator of all life. The tuber provided that life for the Hawaiians, because of it’s use as by far the common staple of Hawaiian diet. Taro is purple potato like starch that was often ground into poi(akin to mashed potatoes). The Hawaiians went to great lengths to cultivate this plant creating aqueducts and massive rock wall terraces using 100’s of thousands of rocks.