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Fragrant, hardy ground cover easy to grow


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POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009

Hinahina

Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum

Description: A low, trailing ground cover with one of the most fragrant flower clusters of all the native Hawaii plants. Each cluster comprises up to 15 small white flowers that protrude above a tight, silvery rosette of leaves.

Distribution: This indigenous plant is found throughout the Pacific. In Hawaii it is found on the shores of all the main islands, but it is believed that Maui now only has one plant growing in the wild, within Kanaha pond.

Hinahina thrives in the harsh environment along the coast on both rocky and sandy terrain, where sunlight is intense, winds are strong and fresh water is scarce.

Landscape use and care: Hinahina will live and look best if 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, and not too much water. Don't be afraid to plant it in a high-wind area.

If given too much water and/or shade, the plant will grow too quickly, become leggy and be more green instead of silvery. Also, the rosette of leaves will not be tight, but loose and not as attractive.

In addition, the quick, soft growth of the plant will make it more susceptible to pests such as aphids, mealybugs or scales. If you notice these pests on your plant, you can either shoot them off with water or spray the plant with a pesticide designed for those 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. When they're in bloom, wow.

Cultural uses: The flowers and leaf rosettes are highly prized for lei making. If you had this plant in your yard, all your lei-making material would be at hand, and you wouldn't have to diminish what few plants remain in the wild.

The leaves and flowers also can be steeped in boiling water to make a nice-tasting, mild tea.

Additional info: One of my references says that this plant is no longer found on Kahoolawe, which is strange because hinahina is the island plant of Kahoolawe, as 'ilima is for Oahu and lokelani (a non-native plant, by the way) is for Maui. Don't confuse this hinahina with the introduced air plant called Spanish moss, often called hinahina or Pele's hair. There is absolutely no relation whatsoever, and they only share the name because they are both silvery-gray ("hinahina" in Hawaiian).