Hawaiian Hibiscus

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Hibiscus spp. [Malvaceae]
Hawaii Natives

It's ironic that the hibiscus flower has come to be associated with Hawaii, since nearly all the hibiscus flowers so boldly displayed on postcards and behind the ears of hula dancers belong to a species native to Asia, not to Hawaii!

We do have several native hibiscus species, and while they may not be as showy as some of the cultivated varieties, they are very beautiful in their own way. Most are found naturally only in rare stands of native forest, but more and more often these species can be seen in gardens, both public and private. Indeed, the native white hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus) is becoming almost common in civic landscaping projects.

Native species include:
Hibiscus arnottianus - koki`o ke`oke`o - tall shrubs to small trees with simple white flowers, brilliant and lovely. Often seen in gardens.
Hibiscus brackenridgei - ma`o hau hele - a dryland species occurring on all major islands. Yellow flowers with large, deeply lobed leaves.
Hibiscus kokio - koki`o or koki`o `ula - a tall shrub to small tree with bright red flowers, sometimes seen in gardens.
Hibiscus clayi - similar to koki`o, above.
Hibiscus waimeae - koki`o ke`oke`o or koki`o kea - A Kauai island native, this hibiscus is a tree growing six to ten meters tall.

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