A large tree that is endemic to the dry forests of Hawaii. In the wild, wiliwili can reach 40 feet in height, but they stay much shorter in cultivation. Often damaged and gnarled due to harsh environments, the stout trunk has an orange hue. Compound leaves grow in groups of three, each leaflet is triangle-shaped and 3 inches long. Leaves are dropped in the summer before flowering, a dramatic display with bright orange flowers in a leafless canopy. The curved claw-shaped flowers grow in spectacular clusters. Following flowers comes the fruit. The name wiliwili refers to the way the seed pod twists open to reveal stunning orange-red seeds. Each pod contains 1 to 3 seeds.
Wind, drought, and salt-tolerant, wiliwili thrives in the harshest conditions. It is a native nitrogen fixer. Massive trees have been successfully transplanted. Wiliwili trees were in danger with the establishment of the Erythrina gall wasp. It attacked and laid eggs in the new growth, deforming it with galls until the tree lost all vigor and died. A successful biocontrol was released in 2008, effectively saving wiliwili from extinction.
Scarify seeds before sowing for high rates of germination. Water well until established. The buoyant wood was shaped into surfboards by the early Hawaiians.
- Cultural significance
- Lei flower
- Nitrogen fixer
- No dangers