Wiliwili

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Erythrina sandwicensis [Fabaceae]
Hawaii Native

This is a tree of striking appearance, adapted to dry habitat up to 2,000-feet in elevation. It's deciduous–an unusual habit among native trees–dropping its leaves during dry periods to conserve water. The stark trunks and branches, often tinted by an orange-colored lichen, have an austere beauty.

Abundant flowers appear on the bare branches in season. Most are orange, but color variants are not uncommon, ranging from yellow to white and pale green. The seeds look like bright orange beans; they were once strung into lei.

Wiliwili is one of the few native plants with thorns. Despite this protection, it has suffered from the same habitat degradation that threatens all native dryland species. Wildfire, combined with destructive grazing by cattle and goats has left only remnant populations.

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