In the Garden

By Rick Barboza

Friday, January 3, 2003

KoKi'o Ke'o Ke'0

(Immaculate Hibiscus)


Latin name: Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. immaculatus

THE SCARCITY of this plant is a perfect example of the type of damage inflicted on our native flora by feral ungulates.

Wild deer and goats are the likely cause for this plant's possible demise as well as many other native plant species. More effort is needed to prevent these animals from eating our native plants to extinction.

The flower buds of Koki'o were eaten (or are eaten still) by Hawaiians as a gentle laxative. Cordage was also made from the stripped bark.

Description: This most elegant of native white hibiscus has a pure white flower, unlike other native white hibiscus that have a pinkish red staminal column.

It also grows more upright (upward of 10 feet) rather than bushy, literally making it stand out above the rest.

Like all native white hibiscus, it possesses a slight fragrance.

Distribution: This endangered subspecies is found only on Molokai. Approximately a dozen or so are left in the mesic to wet forests.

Landscape use and care: This Koki'o can be planted as an accent in front of dark backgrounds such as a rock wall or green/red ti leaf, to show off its beautiful white flowers. Although this plant will thrive in partially shaded areas, it will bloom more in the full sun.

Daily watering is suggested for those planting in dry areas. Pests such as white flies can be easily controlled by standard pesticides should problems arise.

Organically rich, well drained soil will keep this plant looking healthy for a long time.

Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a Native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. "In the Garden" runs Fridays.

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