In the Garden

Rick Barboza

Delissea rhytodosperma

Delissea rhytidosperma

Description: This is a type of native lobelia (family Campanulaceae) with herbaceous stems that sometimes branch, a rosette arrangement of leaves that cluster toward branch tips, and curved tubular flowers. Each leaf is elliptical, about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, with margins that are pointedly serrated. The flowers are whitish-green, and about 1-1/2 inches long. The petals are narrow and the stamen is perfectly positioned to deliver a dab of pollen on the heads of native nectar-feeding birds, who fly off to pollinate other flowers. This flower design is common among native lobelias that have co-evolved with native avifauna. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into small, fleshy dark maroon fruit, that are filled with many tiny seeds.

Distribution: This plant species belongs to an endemic genus of native lobelias known as Delissea. It is also an endangered species that is found only in remote Kauai mesic forests.

Cultural uses: There are no known cultural uses of this particular plant, but other members of this family are used as bait to catch birds. Bird catchers would place a sticky glue made from the fruit sap of Papala kepau (Pisonia spp.) on a branch that the bird would perch on to feed. The bird would then become stuck to the branch, rendering it easy to retrieve. The flowers of many other species of Campanulaceae are also used in making lei.

Landscape use and care: Delissea look great as specimen plants around larger landscaping stones or at the base of other larger trees or tall hapu'u ferns. Plant them in full sun or filtered sunlight and give them water about three to four times a week, making sure not to over saturate them. Before you know it, you will be gazing at their interesting flowers and attractive fruit.

Watch out for mites and mealy bugs that may occasionally distort the shape of leaves, making them spotty or crinkly, or both. You can treat the problem manually by squashing the bugs with your fingers or spraying the underside of the leaves with water. You can also use pesticides.

Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar

E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --