Naupaka’s yellow blooms catch the eye
Description: Small shrubs 3 to 4 feet tall with narrow leaves 2 to 3 inches long and up to 1 inch wide. The margins of the leaves are slightly serrated near the tip. The most appealing feature of this native plant is its fragrant yellow half-flowers, compared with the other eight native species of naupaka, six of which are also mountain-dwelling. The other two are the common coastal naupaka kahakai (Scaevola sericea) and the endangered dwarf naupaka (Scaevola coriacea), also found near the ocean.
This particular species has the most narrow and pointed petals of them all; it's very striking. The color of the flower is unusual -- the only other yellow-flowered species of naupaka is the 'ohe naupaka (Scaevola glabra), which is much rarer. Once the flowers are pollinated, small black fruit develop with a single seed within.
Distribution: This endemic species is found in dry to mesic forests on all the main islands except Niihau and Kahoolawe, unlike other mountain naupaka, which reside mostly in higher, wetter areas.
Landscape use and care: This plant makes an excellent addition to any yard. It requires little water once established in the ground and loves full sun. It also seems to be the hardiest of the naupaka kuahiwi species, resistant to the mites and other pests that would crinkle and deform other naupaka leaves. Many times, people plant coastal naupaka kahakai on the makai side of a house and naupaka kuahiwi on the mauka side.
For a limited time, this plant can be purchased at Home Depot for around $9.
Cultural uses: The fragrant flowers of various naupaka kuahiwi are used in leis, as seen in the book "Na Lei Makamae," by Marie McDonald and Paul Weissich (a definite must-have for everyone, especially hula dancers, native plant collectors, lei makers and Hawaiian culture enthusiasts).
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