Urban Trees

This category contains 11 posts

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.


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.

Forest gardenia

* Endangered

Scientific Name: Gardenia Brighamii

Hawaiian Name: Nanu, Na u

This is another popular easy to grow landscaping plant.  However, it has become extremely difficult to find in the wild and has been listed on the federally endangered list.  The Hawaiians used the pulp of this flower for a rich yellow dye reserved for chiefs.


* Polynesian Introduced

Scientific Name: Thespesia populnea

Hawaiian Name: milo

This common tree can often be found in parks and provides solid shade. It was used by the Hawaiians to food utensils and containers because it left no bitter aftertaste. The bark also made a poor quality cordage and it’s fruit produced yellow and green dye. It’s not really clear why the Hawaiians brought this plant considering that it doesn’t appear to have any unique or essential uses.


* polynesian introduced

Scientific Name: Pandanus tectorius

Hawaiian Name: Hala, Pu Hala

This plant is easily recognizable through its droopy leaves and the pineapple like appearance of it’s fruit. The mangrove like bottoms allows the hala to filter out small amounts of salt water and survive well on the coastline. The Hawaiians main use of this plant was it’s leaves. The leaves were used to weave, mats hats, plates, blankets, bags but most importantly they wove the sails of their voyaging canoes that carried them the thousands of miles to and from Hawaii.


Scientific Name: psydrax odorata

Hawaiian Names: Ohe’e, Alahe’e

The Alahe’e was once very common in dry forests, and unlike many native plants, remains relatively common. The leaves are glossy green and hold out well against drought.  The strong yet relatively light wood was used as digging stick ( ‘o’o) . These digging sticks were the primary farming tool of the Hawaiians and were used as a shovel and crowbar all in one.

Candle Nut Tree

*Polynesian introduced

Scientific Name: Pittosporum hosmeri

Hawaiian Name Aleurites moluccana

This common plant has distinct light colored leaves that help this plant stand out in a forest. Its Hawaiian translation is ” light” because it’s seeds were extensively burned due to its high oil content. The spreading crushed nuts in small ponds helped increase visibility when spear fishing.  The nut was roasted and eaten as a dish called inamona, although eaten raw it is poisonous. The oil from the nuts treated surfboards with create a protective coating similar to a stain.


Scientific name: pritchardia, Arecina, P. beccariana, P hardyi, P. Hillebrandii, P. martii ( numerous others)

Hawaiian Names: Hawane, Loulu Noulu

With 19 species of Loulu in Hawaii, each island and environment seems to have it’s own type.  The Hawaiians labeled all 19 species under the singe title of Loulu. Some species are endangered and most of the other ones are listed at risk.  Some of types of Loulu were used by Hawaiians for thatching. Other types were eaten and had a taste similar to coconut.

Native Yellow Hibiscus

* Endangered

Scientific name: Hibiscus brackenridgei

Hawaiian name: Aloalo, Maʻo hau hele

This is the official Hibiscus flower of Hawaii. It’s fitting that this hibiscus is endangered when considering the vast number of endangered Native Hawaiian  plants.  The flowers’ pedals and stigma are yellow with either a solid or splotchy  red center. This plant should not be confused with the much more common chinese hibiscus.

False Sandal Wood

Scientific Name: Myoporum Sandwicense

Hawaiian name: Naio

In the 1800’s this plant was sold as  sandal wood due to it’s sharp and  similar odor to the prized furniture wood. However, this ploy of using the Naio was soon discovered by importers and further imports were rejected.  Thus  the Naio earned the nickname of False sandal wood and Bastard Sandal Wood. Depending on its location and environment this plant can take many forms. Sometimes it crawls along the ground and at other times it sprouts up to 40ft tall trees.