In The Garden
This hibiscus tops 25 feet
Description: A beautiful hibiscus tree with large, maple-like leaves and gorgeous salmon-colored flowers with petals that ruffle and tweak backward. This plant can be quite tall for a hibiscus, reaching 25 feet plus.
This federally listed endangered tree is endemic to the island of Hawaii, where it is found in the upper dry forest and lava fields of North Kona. It is rare in the wild with only five plants remaining.
Cultural uses: A dye can be made from the flowers and the bark, used to color fishnets. The use of the flowers for leis has also been documented (a good picture can be found in the book "Na Lei Makamae," by Paul Weisich and Marie McDonald).
Landscape use and care: This magnificent tree should be planted in more yards if you can find it. Mature trees bloom profusely from late summer to early fall. Good drainage is key. It requires little to no watering once established. We have a variegated plant in the ground at our nursery in fairly poor but dry soil, doing well. My neighbor in Waimanalo also has one that is jamming! The soil there is also dry but sandy, allowing for good drainage.
Occasionally, white flies accumulate on the undersides of the leaves. Store- bought pesticides solve that without harming the plant as long as directions are followed. Stay away from oil-based pesticides; these can burn the leaves. If you notice the leaves are crinkling and have a white powdery mass at the base and a lot of ants, you have mealy bugs. The ants farm the mealy bugs to harvest a sugary substance they secrete while feeding on the plant. Smash the mealy bugs or cut off any damaged portion of the plant. After that, get rid of the ants with pesticides.
Tasty tidbit: Kokia is an endemic genus to Hawaii represented by four different species: Kokia drynarioides, Kokia kauaiensis (an endangered species from Kauai), Kokia cookei from Molokai and, finally, Kokia lanceolata from Oahu. The latter was last documented in 1888 near Koko Head and in Wailupe. It has not been noted since and is presumed extinct.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail email@example.com