In The Garden
Petite hibiscus stands out with color and scent
Hibiscus waimeae subsp. hannerae
Description: This much-sought-after shrub can reach the height of a 15-foot tree but usually stays in the 5- to 8-foot range. It has light green leaves that are large compared with the typical Hibiscus waimeae, but its flowers are one-fifth the size of its more common relative. They do have one thing in common: the color and scent of their flowers. Both are bright white with a light pink stamen, with a slight fragrance.
COURTESY HUI KU MAOLI OLA
The Hibiscus waimeae blossom is a fraction of the size of the more common variety.
Another attractive feature is that the flowers emerge at the tips of the branches, allowing them to stand out, as small as they are. They bloom a brilliant white and, by the end of two days, slowly fade to light pink and begin to close. It is definitely the cutest of all the native hibiscus, makes beautiful leis and fits perfectly behind the ear. It's ideal for those who want to wear a flower but not a giant hibiscus that appears as though the flower is wearing them.
Distribution: This rare subspecies of native white hibiscus is endemic to the wetter forests in the northern and northwestern valleys of Kauai and nowhere else in the world.
Landscape use: As with most hibiscuses, the Koki'o ke'oke'o can be trimmed into a beautiful and colorful hedge, but I think it looks better as a stand-alone plant to be admired from all directions.
It can handle full sun quite well but does best in partially shaded areas with filtered sunlight. Hint: Plant it in front of a dark background -- such as a rock wall or ti hedge -- to really show off the flowers!
Watch out for aphids and whiteflies. Either shoot them off with a water hose or spray them with pesticide. You should have good results if you follow the directions on the bottle.
This beautiful plant can be found for a limited time either at my nursery in Kaneohe or at the Home Depot in Iwilei and Pearl City for about $15. It will soon be available at the Kauai Home Depot as well.
Cultural uses: The flowers can be eaten as a laxative. Some say that the native red hibiscus was eaten by girls and women, while the white was eaten by boys and men.
Tasty tidbit: The native white hibiscuses, which include Hibiscus arnottianus (found on Oahu and Molokai) and this species, H. waimeae, are the only naturally fragrant hibiscuses in the world.
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