Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Three native Hawaiian hibiscus cousins are rare sights on Oahu, and two of them are in bloom at the same time today at Waimea Arboretum. The Kokia cookei, left, will be in bloom for about two weeks while the Kokia kauaiensis, right, is in flower only for today. Kokia drynarioides, middle, is not in bloom.

Rare blossom
in bloom

1 Kokia is blooming today only,
but another species can be seen
for 2 weeks at Waimea Arboretum

By Treena Shapiro

Today may be the only day this year to see an endangered native Hawaiian hibiscus relative in full bloom at the Waimea Arboretum on the North Shore.

The Kokia kauaiensis, part of the cotton-hibiscus family, produces big bright red-orange blossoms with petals that twist back onto the flower itself.

A single blossom was expected to open last night or this morning, said David Orr, arboretum director.

It will be only the second time the plant has bloomed at the arboretum, even though there are six collections, he said.

The flower is in top form for 24 hours, and will begin to fade afterward, leaving flower lovers only today to get the best view.

"I think that's it for this year," Orr said, adding that there were three buds earlier this year but they failed to bloom.

If you miss the bloom, however, another rare native Hawaiian hibiscus relative, Kokia cookei, also is in bloom and the flowers will last about two weeks, Orr said.

The arboretum has three species of kokia: The Kokia kauaiensis, a native of Kauai; Kokia drynarioides, both critically endangered; and Kokia cookei, which has been extinct in the wild since the late 1970s. The Kokia dryanarioides has no flowers at the moment, Orr said. All three species produce similar bright red flowers with large and backward-folding petals.

The Kokia cookei, native to Molokai, is officially extinct and has been kept alive only by grafting it to the roots of a related plant. There are less than two dozen Kokia cookei plants left, including six recently grafted at Waimea.

Recently, seeds from grafted plants have taken root on the Big Island, Orr said.

The Waimea Arboretum, part of Waimea Falls Park, is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Adult admission to the park is $24 for visitors and $12 for kamaaina. Children's admission is half price. The park currently has a 2-for-1 admission promotion.

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