In The Garden
Hinahina makes sweet ground cover
Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum
Description: A prostrate ground cover with one of the nicest-smelling flower clusters of all the native Hawaiian plants. Each flower cluster comprises up to 15 small white flowers that protrude above a tight, silvery rosette of leaves.
This indigenous plant is found throughout the Pacific; in Hawaii it is found on the shoreline of all the main islands (additional information below) where they might have occurred in the past. It thrives in the harsh environment along the coast nearest the ocean where there is usually intense sunlight, strong winds and little water in both rocky and sandy terrains.
Landscape use and care: This plant will live and look best planted in an area that most closely resembles its natural habitat -- in other words, as much sun as you can give it, in well-drained soil without much water. Don't be afraid of planting it in a high-wind area; it can handle. If given too much water, shade or both, the plant will grow too fast, becoming leggy, greener and not as silvery. The rosette of leaves will not be more loose than tight, and not as attractive as it could be, and the quick, soft growth of the plant will make it more susceptible to pests like aphids, mealy bugs or scales.
If you notice pests on your plant, treat it by shooting it off with water or by spraying it with a pesticide targeting the specific bugs. When planted in the right location, this plant is one of the most stunning ground covers around. It looks especially nice planted around larger landscaping stones, and when the plant is in bloom, wow! This plant is available for a limited time at all the Home Depots for $5.96.
Cultural uses: The flowers and leaf rosettes are highly prized and valued for lei making. It would be nice to have this plant in your own yard to have lei-making material at hand, preventing someone from going out and potentially diminishing the few plants remaining in the wild.
The leaves and flowers can also be steeped in boiling water to make a pleasant-tasting, mild tea.
Also: One of my references says that this plant is no longer found on the island of Kahoolawe, which is strange because hinahina is the island plant of Kahoolawe just as ilima is to Oahu and Lokelani (which is not native, by the way) is to Maui. Don't confuse this hinahina plant with the introduced air plant called Spanish moss (often called hinahina or Pele's hair). There is absolutely no relation there, and the plants share the name only because they are both silvery-gray (hinahina in Hawaiian).
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery. Contact him at 295-7777 or e-mail Rick.firstname.lastname@example.org