Indigenous hibiscus requires little care
'Akiohala (Purple hibiscus)
Description: A medium-sized hibiscus about 8 feet tall with rough leaves that are slight to moderately lobed and awesome flowers that emerge on tall stems above the rest of the plant. Each flower is large, with light purple/pink petals and a dark purple center and staminal column. Once pollinated, the calyx will turn brown and fill with many small, shiny brown seeds.
HUI KU MAOLI OLA
'Akiohala is available at Home Depot for about $6.
This is the only native hibiscus besides hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) that is indigenous. It is native to Hawaii as well as Florida, all the way down to South America. The rest of our native hibiscus are endemic. In Hawaii 'akiohala is found on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island in lowland wet areas, but was once much more widespread.
Cultural uses: Flowers can be used medicinally as a laxative and also for a dye, while the bark can be stripped and woven into cordage.
Landscape uses and care: 'Akiohala are great specimen plants and need very little care. Although naturally found in wet areas, in a landscape they require very little watering. Basically they require only full sun (which will encourage profuse blooms), with daily watering only until established, then watering can be reduced. Watch out for rose beetles that make holes in the leaves. They can be taken care of either by spraying with a systemic pesticide or by placing the plant near a light source at night, such as landscape lighting, a porch light or even a street light.
Also: Ever see purple bees before? Chances are, if you own this plant you will. One its pollinators is the large black carpenter bee, commonly called bumble bee. When these bees fly into the flower to retrieve nectar, their buzzing causes the purple pollen to sprinkle on them, covering their whole body so when they fly out, they're purple.
'Akiohala also goes by the names 'akiahala, hauhele and hauhelewai, because it resembles our state flower, ma'ohauhele, but is often located near fresh water -- wai -- hence the name hauhelewai.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 295-7777 or e-mail Rick.firstname.lastname@example.org