Indigenous Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands (1885)
Isabella Sinclair

 1. THE HAU Hibiscus tiliaceus, Linn.
The Hau is found more or less in all parts of the islands from the sea-coast to an elevation of about one thousand feet. When growing singly it attains a considerable size; but where found in groves, it inclines to spread in a dense thicket not over twenty feet high. When the hau grows as a tree, it attains a height of thirty or forty feet, with a short crooked trunk two or three feet in diameter at the base. The tree is a mass of branches and foliage, which renders it an attractive object at all seasons, but especially so in spring and summer, when brilliant with its large handsome, yellow flowers.

The flowers only last one day, opening at sunrise and closing at sunset, and there are no other trees in the islands, and probably few in the world, which produce such a vast number of blossoms in a single season.

The hau is easily grown by simply planting a branch; and, although it matures seed, it is usually propagated by cuttings.

The wood is useful for ox-yokes and other purposes, being light and tough. The inner bark was formerly much used by the natives for making ropes, net-bags, kapa (native cloth), and various other articles. The tree is not peculiar to these islands, being found in most of the Pacific Islands within the tropics. In Tahiti its native name is “purau.”

 8. THE KOKIO-KEOKEO Hibiscus Arnottianus, A. Gray, forma.
This shrub, or tree, generally grows on the sides of rocky ravines, and is usually found from one thousand to two thousand feet above sea level. It attains a height of about twenty feet, and, when in full flower, is a most beautiful and attractive shrub the delicate white of the petals, and the pink of the showy stamens, forming a charming contrast with the dark green leaves.

It is quite erratic in its seasons, sometimes blooming late in autumn, and sometimes in spring; being accelerated or retarded by the wetness or dryness of the season. It is to be feared the Kokio-keokeo is doomed to early extinction, as in many places where it was plentiful a few years ago, not a single plant is now to be seen owing partly to the ravages of cattle and goats, and partly to the changing flora of the islands.

No doubt, at one time it formed a frequent and beautiful feature in the landscape, as it is often mentioned in ancient Hawaiian songs and legends.

 9. THE KOKIO-ULA Hibiscus Arnottianus, A. Gray, forma.
The remarks which have been made regarding the kokio-keokeo apply equally well to the Kokio-ula, as they are almost identically the same, the only difference being the colour of the flower, which in the case of the kokio-ula is of a brick-red, while the other is pure white.

This variety is perhaps rarer than the white. Both are now very subject to blight. This, and the ravages of cattle and goats already mentioned, will soon make these fine shrubs things of the past.

11. THE HAUHELE H. Youngianus, Gaud.
The subject of the present plate was once a common flower in nearly all valleys, and sheltered places ; seeming to flourish equally well on both the leeward and windward sides of the islands. Now cattle and cultivation have almost exterminated the plant on the dry lee-side, but it is still frequently met with on the windward side; where, owing to the more luxuriant vegetation, many plants, which have disappeared from the leeward side, are still found.

The Hauhele was once so plentiful in many parts that the aho (thatching sticks) of the houses were made of the stems, and any one who knows what a great quantity of aho, a single, old-fashioned house required, will readily see how abundant the plant must have been. It attains a height of from eight to twelve feet, throwing out many branches, which bear showy flowers, and large oblong seed pods. The flowers last but one day. When they open in the morning, they are a very beautiful pink, gradually deepening in colour towards night, when they close. The plant may be found in blossom throughout the year, according to locality, but it mostly blooms in spring and early summer.

The hauhele is armed with minute prickles, which are disagreeable at all times, but particularly so as the season advances, and the seed ripens, for then the prickles are easily detached, and adhere to the hand in a most unpleasant manner.

Hibiscus bibliography