In the Garden
Friday, October 25, 2002

By Rick Barboza



Latin name: Pleomele hawaiiensis

There are six different species of halapepe found throughout the islands. Halapepe, a gorgeous tree that will add beauty to any yard, slightly resembles the common money tree, which once shared the same genus (Dracaena).

Description: A tree 10 to 15 feet tall. When in bloom, it sends out a panicle with pale yellow flowers that develops into orange fruit which look like a large bunch of orange grapes.

Distribution: This endangered tree is found only in the dry-mesic forests of the Big Island.

Cultural uses: This plant is highly associated with hula. Halapepe was one of five plants that decorated the hula altar for Laka, the goddess of hula.

Landscape uses and care: Halapepe does well in full sun, with minimal watering once established. This plant is an extremely slow grower, so don't be too anxious in looking for change, and resist the desire to overwater. Watering once every other day is sufficient until the plant begins to grow. At that time, slowly reduce watering to once every two or three days.

Not too many pests are associated with this plant.

Well-drained soil is the best, and any slow-release fertilizer (14-14-14) is fine to use.

Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. "In the Garden" is a Friday feature about flora written by field experts.

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