In The Garden
Fragrant tree is as pretty as plumeria
Description: These plants are among the few native plants related to the plumeria, which is not native. They are gorgeous trees that can reach heights up to 30 feet but generally are in the 5- to 15-foot range, with great-looking elliptical leaves that form whorls of up to seven leaves per node. Each leaf has smooth margins, is bright green with a yellow mid-rib and is about 5 inches long.
HUI KU MAOLI OLA
The hao blossoms are tiny but have a surprisingly distinct scent considering their size.
The flowers are tiny, white and emerge on clusters just like plumeria and have a fragrance very similar to plumeria; the fragrance is surprisingly easy to catch considering how small the blossoms are. Once pollinated, the flowers form small fruit, which turn dark purple/black when ripe.
The outer bark is a light tan, as is the inner wood, which is very hard, hence the name "hao," the Hawaiian word for iron or any iron tool. As with the plumeria, hao bleeds a milky sap when either leaves or stems are broken.
Distribution: This is an uncommon tree, most likely to be found in mesic forests, but occasionally in lower dry forests on all of the larger islands except Kahoolawe, although it may have grown there in the past.
Landscape use and care: Hao look great anywhere and if more were available I'm sure you would see it more often. It's unfortunate that more people are familiar with its non-native cousin, the plumeria.
You could plant it as a specimen plant or use it to fill blank patches. They thrive in full sun to light shade and require minimal watering once established. You can pretty much plant it anywhere you would normally plant a plumeria tree.
Few pests bother it since most don't like their milky sap. This plant is awesome; I love the way it looks, as well as the beauty it adds to the landscape. It's now available at Hui Ku Maoli Ola native Hawaiian plant nursery for $15.
Additional info: This is one of a few native plants related to plumeria in the family Apocynacea. Other native plants in this family include maile (Alyxia oliviformis), which is still fairly common; as well as the rare holei (Ochrosia spp.) and kaulu (Pteralyxia spp.).
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