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In the Garden

Rick Barboza

Friday, August 6, 2004


Popolo

LATIN NAME
Popolo'aiakeakua
Solanum sandwicense


Description: A large shrub or small tree up to 12 feet tall with light green to almost yellowish foliage. Each leaf is rough in appearance, with somewhat ruffled lobes on the margins. A light brown pubescence, which is heavier on younger leaves, covers both the underside and top of the leaf. White flowers hang facing down with a purple stripe on the center of each flower petal. Once pollinated, they develop into shiny black berries.


art
HUI KU MAOLI OLA
Popolo'aiakeakua is available at the Home Depot for about $12.


Distribution: Extremely rare. This endemic plant is only known to exist in the mesic forests of Oahu and Kauai; however, its natural population on Oahu is now considered to be extinct. Luckily, seeds were harvested before the last plant died, so now there are a few plants left in cultivation (as seen here and for sale at the Home Depot) and a handful planted back into the wild.

Cultural uses: There are no known cultural uses for this particular plant. However, there is another more commonly known popolo plant (Solanum americanum) that is highly valued for its medicinal uses. I wouldn't use this plant in any manner as you would the other popolo, since the translation of popolo'aiakeakua literally means "the popolo eaten by the god," and that doesn't sound like a good thing if you're human.

Landscape uses and care: This is definitely a plant to have if you are into natives. It's not often that you can have a naturally extinct plant in your garden that has a look both prehistoric and exotic. Few pests bother this plant, and it requires little watering once established. Plant it in full sun or partial shade and enjoy a true living Hawaiian jewel.


Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail rickbarboze@aol.com.



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