Native and Endemic Plants

Healthy Climate Communities staff, along with hundreds of volunteers have been working over the years to remove invasive species that were introduced. These invasive plants crowd out native species and fill in open, shallow water, and mudflats the waterbirds and other native and edemic species need for survival. Much has been done to restore the wetland areas including planting Hawaiian plants such as bullrush (Bolboschoenus maritimus - paludosus), water hyssop (Bacopa Monniere), ditchgrass (Ruppia maritima) and some akulikuli(Sesuvium portalucastrum) which help provide habitat for nesting birds. We continue to restore the adjacent Puʻu o Ehu hillside above which is the last remaining watershed that currently feeds Hāmākua. Invasive plants such as Kiawe, Christmas berry, fiddlewood, koa haole, Chinese Banyan, and alien grasses such as California grass that dominate the hillsides choke out surrounding area affecting the natural health of our ecosytems. We contniue to work hard to restore the habitat of both wetland and dryland forest to preserve and protect the health of Kailuaʻs watershed and protect the rare and endagered species of Hawaiʻi for future generations. Below is a list of just some of the few we have protected and planted, the list will continue to be updated as a resource.

Williwilli tree


Erythrina sandwicensis

Wiliwili has lightweight wood that was prized for making surfboards and the ama of canoes. The wood was used for boxes for fishing gear because it would float if it fell in the water.

Pili or speargrass


Heteropogon contortus

Pili is a grass used by early Hawaiians for thatch. They enjoyed the pleasant odor from its leaves. The soil, roots, and flowering spikes were trimmed from a bunch then they were tied to the roof frame in rows with stems up. The leaves were also used to stuff mattresses, pad floors, and as a tinder.

Naupaka in bloom


Scaevola taccada

Naupaka flowers appear to be only half flowers and inspired the legend about lovers separated forever, one to the beach and the other to the mountains. The fruit and flowers were used in lei. The fruit is used to keep dive masks from fogging.



Gossypium tomentosum

Ma'o is a native Hawaiian cotton that shares its name with a Hawaiian thrush. The name comes from the word for the color green. Ma'o was used for a light green dye as well as a red-brown dye. The fiber was used for stuffing pillows, while flowers were used for lei, food and medicine. Maʻo helped save the modern cotton industry. Crossing Ma'o with other cotton strains created hybrids that are less attractive to insect pests that destroy cotton crops.

Bright yellow Ma'o Hau Hele hibiscus in bloom

Ma'o Hau Hele

Hibiscus brackenridgei

This endangered hibiscus plant is the Hawai’i State flower. The Hawaiian name means “green travelling hibiscus.” The top of the plant gets heavy and leans over or falls over. Where the branches touch the ground, it sprouts new roots. If the old part of the plant dies, the plant will have “travelled” a few feet and can do it over and over again.

A pink Ko'oloa 'Ula in full bloom

Ko'oloa 'Ula

Abutilon menzeisii

Ko'oloa 'Ula were assumed extinct on O’ahu until plants were found in an abandoned sugar cane field planned for use as a road in 2003. DLNR removed the plants before the road was built and established new populations. Planted by our project since 2018.

A bright red Koki'o 'Ula hibiscus in bloom

Koki'o 'Ula

Hibiscus kokoio

Koki'o 'Ula is one of five species of endemic hibiscus. It was prized for its beautiful red flower.

An Alahe'e plant with small white flowers in full bloom


Psydrax odorata

Alahe'e means wandering fragrance. In full bloom, the plant is completely covered in fragrant flower clusters. Digging tools and Adze handles were made from the hard wood of this plant while a black dye was also made from the leaves. In addition the flowers and fruit are used in lei.

A flowering Kolomona shrub


Senna gaudichaudii

Kolomona is a tall shrub with abundant small flowers.

An Anapanapa shrub with green, shiny leaves


Colubrina asiatica

Anapanapa is a sprawling shrub with shiny leaves. In Hawaiian, anapa means to shine and is also the name of a seaweed eaten by honu. It is drought tolerant and can grow over other plants. Crushed leaves create lather and were mixed with water by the Hawaiians to use as soap.

A light yellow ilima flower in full bloom


Sida fallax

Ilima he official flower of O’ahu. Lei from this flower could only be worn by royalty since it looked like the yellow feather lei only used by royalty. The flower is also used for medicine.