In The Garden
Climbing vine makes for beautiful lei
Canavalia hawaiiensis, C. galeata, C. kauaiensis, C. molokaiensis, C. napaliensis, C. pubescens
Description: A climbing vine with very pubescent, trifolate leaves (three leaflets comprising a single leaf) and striking purple flowers. The flowers are similar to those of pea-flowers like the 'Ohai (Sesbania tomentosa), but are deep purple and have a white spot at the base of the petal and keel. Once the flowers are pollinated, large seed pods with 3 to 9 tan-colored seeds, about an inch in diameter, develop on the inside.
: This endemic plant, depending on the species, is found from the coast, through the lowland dry forest and up into the mesic forests on all of the main islands except for Kahoolawe, where it probably occurred in the past.
Cultural Uses: The flowers and seeds of this spectacular vine are strung into extraordinary lei. The color of the flowers range from almost all white with splashes of purple to deep purple, depending on which island you are on.
Landscape Uses and Care: This is a hardy plant, it does well in full sun and can handle little watering once established. It does fine growing on a trellis, chain-link fence or another tree, but also does well as a ground cover. This is a beautiful vine that doesn't "take over" the host plant it climbs unlike many of the introduced, invasive vines such as ivy gourd, maunaloa, maile pilau, banana poka and other passion fruit vines. Right now 'awikiwiki is available at the Home Depot and at Hui Ku Maoli Ola native Hawaiian Plant nursery for a limited time for about $8.
Also: Many people are familiar with the plant called maunaloa (Canavalia cathartica), which is used to make maunaloa lei. What people don't realize is that maunaloa is a non-native, highly invasive alien weed that is smothering our lowland forest plants. It can be seen taking over other plants from Waimanalo, Oahu all the way down to Na'alehu on the Big Island and pretty much everywhere else in the state. 'Awikiwiki is the original flower for the "maunaloa" type lei and is not invasive like maunaloa. In fact, it is not common anywhere. If you insist on using maunaloa, it would be a good idea to gather all the flowers from the wild to prevent it from producing seeds and spreading further. Remember that you can even use maunaloa seeds for lei, so collect those too!
Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail Rick.CK.Barboza@gmail.com