Slow-growing lama prized for its wood
Description: Small to medium-size trees, 5 to 40 feet tall with dark-brown bark and pale green foliage. New leaves, called liko, are a bright pinkish-orange and very attractive. Flowers are tiny, about an eighth-inch in diameter, and emerge at the leaf axis. Once pollinated, small, oval fruits about an inch in length develop. The fruits starts off green, then change to yellow and finally either orange or red when ripe. Each fruit can contain from one to three seeds. One of the most appealing features of this plant is its heartwood. Being part of the ebony family, lama wood is very hard and can be polished to reveal its deep, dark luster. It is very slow-growing, so be patient when you plant it.
COURTESY HUI KU MAOLI OLA
: Lama is an endemic plant found predominantly in dry-mesic valleys and ridges, occasionally in wet forest. They are found near sea level all the way up to around 3,600 feet in elevation, on all of the main Hawaiian islands except Niihau and Kahoolawe.
Cultural uses: The wood is used to decorate hula altars, as the plant's name is associated with enlightenment. The wood is also used to build houses for curing sick people, as well as fence posts marking sacred areas.
Landscape uses and care: Lama can be a gorgeous tree if given time to grow. It should be treated as a specimen plant for everyone to admire. Give it a lot of sun and not too much water. A good soaking two to three times a week should do. The only pests that really get to this plant are scales. Keep an eye out for them and treat the plant as you would any other tree, either by spraying with pesticide or wiping the scales off with your fingers using soapy water. These plants are hard to get now in anything larger than a 1-gallon pot, so be patient if you're on the lookout for one. We do have a few 5-gallon pots with plants that are more than 3 feet tall, available for $50.
This is a plant with a beauty that is well worth the wait, and the slow growth results in wood that is among the hardest and most beautiful of native trees.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail Rick.firstname.lastname@example.org