In the Garden

By Rick Barboza

Friday, January 17, 2003


The seeds and flowers of Wiliwili are used to make into lei. It's wood is bouyant and used for canoe outrigger.

Latin name: Erythrina sandwicensis

MANY NON-NATIVE species of Erythrina are being grown in Hawaii and they are called Wiliwili. This misleads people into thinking that all Wiliwili are native, but there is really only one and the Erythrina sandwicensis is it.

The light wood is used culturally for constructing canoe outriggers, floats and surfboards. The seeds and individual flowers were strung into lei.

Description: Deciduous trees up to 40 feet tall with light green leaves, reddish-tan bark, and creamy green to dark orange-colored flowers that develop into seed pods with bright orange seeds. Sharp thorns develop on the trunk and branches. The thorns begin to fade as the tree ages.

Distribution: This endemic plant is found on coastal-lowland dry forests on all the main islands.

Landscape uses and care: Wiliwili does well in any sunny, dry area. Initial watering is OK for establishment but the plant can be weaned completely, making it one of the easiest plants to care for.

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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