Bright plant at home in lava fields
Description: Very unique, medium-sized shrubs, 3 to 5 feet tall with bright red stems and fairly thick leaves that are usually flat and elliptical. Each leaf has a distinct yellow mid rib that contrasts well with its foliage and stems. The petioles, which connect the leaf to the stem, are also red with green streaks. When in bloom a large inflorescence of greenish-yellow flowers protrude above the plant. Once pollinated, paper-like seed pods, resembling but much smaller than those of 'a'ali'i (Dodonea viscosa) develop.
This species is naturally found only on the Big Island in both pahoehoe and 'a'a lava fields of Kona, Puna and southern Kau. Other native species closely resembling this one can be found on other islands as well.
Cultural uses: Although not commonly used, most likely due to scarcity, the bright flower clusters and seed pods look great in lei. This is one of those flowers that will make people say: "Aunty (or Uncle), what kine flower is dat? Unreal dat!" And you say: "Yeah, I know. It's pawale," and they say: "Pa -- what?" and you say: "PAWALE, you know Rumex skottsbergii!?!?" and watch the blank look on their face.
Landscape use and care: As I said, this plant is naturally found on lava fields so you want to plant it in the sunniest location of your garden. It will handle partial shade, but will look best in full sun. Planting it around rocks or in a rocky location makes this plant stand out and makes it feel at home.
This plant also likes well-drained soil and dry conditions. A good soaking every two to three days is best, cutting back after a few weeks to watering only when needed. Few pests are an issue, with the exception of slugs that may chomp on new shoots.
This is a nice looking plant, available at Home Depot for about $6. It is rarely ever offered for sale, so I'm sure that once it hits the shelves, it won't last long.
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