Rare herb can add color
Description: This succulent, prostrate herb grows up to 8 inches tall with narrow, pale green leaves up to an inch long. The flowers are attractive, emerging in clusters of two to five at the top of the leaves. The corolla is pink, white or white with pink margins and approximately 1 inch in diameter. Small hair envelops the base of the flower clusters, and once they are pollinated, small seed capsules form with several round, tiny brownish-black seeds.
HUI KU MAOLI OLA
'Ihi is available at Home Depot for about $6.
This increasingly rare, endemic plant grows naturally on dry rocky coast sites of all the major islands except Niihau and Kauai, although it is also found on Kaula (off of Niihau) and on Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Landscape use and care: 'Ihi make great bedding or accent plants. They are normally drought-tolerant once established and will have a more natural, compact look if watered only when needed. They grow leggy and less attractive with overwatering. These plants look great around rock features, and their vivid flowers add color to any landscape. 'Ihi love full sun with well-drained soil and have no problems dealing with drought, wind or even salt spray. Few pests bother this plant, although mealybugs are sometimes seen on flower clusters after blooming. This can be remedied simply by pinching off the old cluster and tossing it, or applying store-bought pesticides.
Cultural uses: There are no known cultural uses for this plant.
Also: Many varieties and hybrids of portulaca are imported into Hawaii. Like other aliens with native relatives, these alien species could easily become naturalized (as some have done so far) and hybridize with our native portulaca species. In the long run, this could mean the end of another unique, purely native Hawaiian plant species.
'Ihi, the Hawaiian name for this plant, means "sacred," "holy" or "dignified." Perhaps we should be treating this plant like it is.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org