In The Garden
Hawaii offers 2 varieties of ‘uki‘uki
Description: Two basic forms of 'uki'uki are found in Hawaii. One is more compact, growing only 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall (the "short" one); the other has a taller, less compact look and can grow to 3 feet. Both are beautiful lilies. The short one (pictured) has dark green leaf blades. From the center it sends up a short stalk covered with small purple and yellow flowers that, once pollinated, develop into dark purple or lavender berries. The seeds are black, smooth and extremely glossy. The taller plant has lighter green foliage and sends out a taller stalk with many more small flowers, usually white and yellow. The fruit that develop are transparent and not as vibrant -- sometimes they look brown. The seeds are not glossy and smooth, but rough and come in a variety of shapes.
HUI KU MAOLI OLA
The taller form of 'uki'uki is available at Home Depot for $6.70.
All forms of 'uki'uki are indigenous, native to Hawaii but also other parts of the world. They are found in many different vegetation zones, from lowland dry forests to higher wet forests. 'Uki'uki is found on all the main islands except Niihau and Kahoolawe, although they most likely grew there in the past.
Cultural uses: The leaves can be used for thatching. Berries from the short plant make a nice bluish-purple dye for kapa; those from the taller one yield a yellowish-brown dye. As delicious as the berries look, don't eat them. They don't taste ono, and they'll turn your whole mouth blue.
Landscape use and care: This is one of the most durable plants you can have. It does well in practically any growing condition from full sun to practically full shade, outdoors to indoors, moderate water to little water, just about anything. I prefer to use it as an accent plant around large boulders or at the base of larger plants and shrubs. You can even plant it as a mass ground cover, but because it grows as a clump and not a runner, you will need more of it to cover an area.
Its flexibility to handle many types of environments makes this plant ideal for any landscape, and I see its popularity increasing tremendously.
The only pests to watch out for are white scales and mealybugs. If you do notice them on the underside of the leaves, they can be manually removed by either shooting them off with water or by cleaning them off with your fingers using soapy water. The plant can also be treated with any store-bought pesticide. It is probably ants that will bring the scales and mealybugs to the plants, so make sure you treat the ant problem as well.
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