ʻAʻaliʻi is a native shrub/small tree that ranges in height from as low as 1 foot up to 30 feet tall. The height depends on the elevation, sunlight, and water ‘a‘ali‘i receives. Alternately arranged leaves are simple and quite shiny. Inconspicuous flowers are mostly male or female (rarely hermaphrodite), are red or green, and appear on the leaf axis and branch tips. Fruit is a colorful seed capsule with paperlike wings. Small black seeds are in cells inside the capsule. Seed capsules are magnificently beautiful, persisting for months. The contrast between leaves and seed capsules is striking.
ʻAʻaliʻi is an easy to grow plant. From sea level to high elevation, ʻaʻaliʻi is a hardy plant that grows in a wide variety of conditions. At a higher altitude, ʻaʻaliʻi is more tree-like. Lower down, near the ocean, ʻaʻaliʻi becomes compact and busy. It tolerates salt spray, drought conditions, and heavy wind. It is an excellent plant for a xeriscape garden.
Seed capsules are perfect for lei-making. Hawaiians used the yellow/brown wood for small hand tools and weapons.ʻAʻaliʻi is native to tropical and subtropical climates worldwide!
To process seeds: Break up the seed capsules in a paper bag. Pour the seeds and capsule pieces onto a plate. Blow away the paper substance, and you are left with the seeds. Speed up germination by soaking the seeds in hot water for 24 hours. Seeds should sprout in 2 weeks to 6 months.
From Hawaiian ethnobotany online database: He ‘a‘ali‘i ku makani mai au; ‘a‘ohe makani nana e kula‘i. (I am a wind-resting ‘a‘ali‘i; no gale can push me over.) A boast meaning “I can hold my own even in the face of difficulties.” The ‘a‘ali‘i bush can stand the worst of gales, twisting and bending but seldom breaking off or falling over.
- Container plant
- Cultural significance
- Erosion control
- Lei flower
- Privacy / screening
- Toxic to humans