Abutilon eremitopetalum

leaf Main Plant Information





Common Names

  • Hidden-petaled abutilon
  • Hidden-petaled ilima


  • Abortopetalum eremitopetalum
  • Abutilon cryptopetalum

Did You Know…?

As its scientific name suggests, the hidden-petaled abutilon (Abutilon eremitopetalum) is one of only three of the 150 or so worldwide species of Abutilon that have its petals completely "hidden" from sight. One only sees the fuzzy calyx (the portion covering the petals) and the promenent red stamen protruding from the flower with the lime green lime petals totally hidden within the calyx.

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Certainly not the most impressive of the native abutlion species, but nonetheless, a unique and rare addition to a native landscape! They are rather easy to grow and maintain in a landscape and perform much like koʻoloa ʻula. With its attractive silvery-greenish foliage, this plant can be used as an accent shrub.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Green
  • Greenish-White
  • Red

Additional Flower Color Information

The lime green petals are hidden within the calyx (sepals)--the portion of the flower under the petals. Some calyxes have a flush of light red. The prominent stamen cluster (staminal tube) is coral red and protrudes from the petals/calyx area.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

The unique flowers of the hidden-petaled abutilon are indeed hidden among the large leaves and not readily detected from a distance. One or two flowers are on each stem.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Leaf Colors

  • Gray / Silverish
  • Light Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The light green to grayish-green leaves are fuzzy and heart-shaped.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Chinese rose beetles can chew unslightly holes in leaves.

leaf Growth Requirements

Pruning Information

Like other members of the Mallow family (Malvaceae), this rare shrub seems to handle pruning well. Do not remove more than necessary at any one time.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Grows well in dry, warm temperature. Benefits from regular watering.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Does best in full sun conditions.


  • Drought


  • Clay
  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Lānaʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This extremely rare and endangered abutilon is only from dry forests at 690 to 1710 feet in eastern Lānaʻi in Kānepuʻu, Kehewai, and the Kalulu and Maunalei Valleys, but also previously recorded from Kaʻā in the northwest, Mahana (east), and Pāwili (northeast). [1,2]

The plants from Kānepuʻu were introductions by George Munro, with at least some of these from the Kalulu plants. [1]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The hidden-petaled abutilon is a smaller relative of hibiscuses belonging to the Mallow family (Malvaceae).  There are some 150 species worldwide in the genus Abutilon.

The Hawaiian Islands have four native species: one indigenous Abutilon species (Abutilon incanum) and three endemic endangered species (Abutilon eremitopetalum, A. menziesii, A. sandwicense).


The generic name Abutilon is derived from the Arabic awbūtīlūn (’abū ṭīlūn), for malvaceous (mallow-like) plants. [3, 4]

The specific epithet eremitopetalum literally means "hidden petaled."

Hawaiian Name:

There is no known Hawaiian name for the hidden-petaled abutilon.

Background Information

The Saga of the Hidden-petaled abutilon

The hidden-petaled abutilon was "discovered" by George Munro in 1930 in Maunalei Valley, Lānaʻi. This abuliton has always been considered rare with widely scattered populations. The grazing and antler rubbing activities of Axis deer or chital (Axis axis), introduced to the islands in 1867, has only added to the abutilon's decline.

In 1951, only two or three plants were found. By the early 1980's this species was considered extinct. However, in 1987 about 60-70 plants were discovered in the north fork of Kaheʻa Gulch on a slope. But by 1990, only 30 plants were observed by Steve Perlman (National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauaʻi). By June 1993 the population was reduced to only seven specimens--the rest eaten by deer. [1,2]

Today, about 100 plants are found in a single wild population in Kaheʻa Gulch.

Fortunately, these plants are in cultivation today and grow in several public and private gardens.

Modern Use

Abutilon eremitopetalum is closely related to koʻoloa ʻula (A. menziesii) and will readily hybridize producing an interesting cross with characteristics of both parents.

Like so many other species in the Malvaceae, or Mallow Group, this species, while still uncommon in commercial landscapes, it is rather easy to grow and maintain in the home garden.

Additional References

[1] "Recovery Plan for the Lanai Plant Cluster," page 26.

[2] "The Story of Lānaʻi" by George C. Munro," Map (enclosed).

[3] http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Abutilon. [Accessed on 8/17/11]

[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abutilon. [Accessed on 8/17/11]




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