In The Garden
Ground cover also makes beautiful lei
Description: The 'akulikuli plant is a low-crawling ground cover. Usually it has succulent, glossy, green leaves with bright red stems and purplish-pink flowers. Sometimes the leaves might not be as succulent, the flowers can be white and the stems are bright red instead of green -- but still attractive.
'Akulikuli is an indigenous coastal ground cover found on all Hawaiian islands and other islands in the Pacific. It grows on both rocky and sandy beaches or around estuaries and marshes. Many wetland and migratory birds like to forage through
'akulikuli looking for small invertebrates to eat. By doing this the birds become seed dispersers, because the tiny black seeds of this plant easily adhere to the birds' feathers or on the mud of the birds' feet, to be released where the bird next lands.
Cultural uses: This plant makes the most beautiful lei, but it is difficult to make because of the volume of flowers needed. A friend of mine once made a nine-strand 'akulikuli lei, and believe me, it was worth its weight in gold. The flowers are pretty durable, so the lei lasts up to three days if kept refrigerated and moist when not being worn. Sometimes people eat the succulent leaves or add them to salads, but I think it's an acquired taste, as it's kind of salty.
Landscape use: 'Akulikuli can tolerate drought, wind and salt. It makes a great ground cover for any garden and does best with lots of sun.
In its natural setting, 'akulikuli forms a dense mat and its leaves look like they are ready to pop because they are so succulent. This look can be achieved in the landscape by reducing the watering schedule once the plant is established. If the plant is watered too regularly, it will grow quickly, but its leaves will not be as full.
Few pests bother this plant, and little maintenance is required to make it look its best. Usually the less attention it gets, the nicer it becomes.
These plants, in 6-inch pots, are available at Home Depot stores for less than $5 or at our nursery in Kaneohe for $4.
Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 295-7777 or e-mail Rick.CK.Barboza@gmail.com