Abutilon incanum

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻIlima pua kea
  • Koʻoloa kea
  • Maʻo

Hawaiian Names

  • Ilima pua kea
  • Kooloa kea
  • Mao

Common Names

  • Hoary abutilon


  • Sida incana

leaf Plant Characteristics

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Mature Size, Width

6 to 8 feet.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container

Additional Landscape Use Information

A rarely used small shrub that has great potential as an accent plant and may be used in the landscape like ʻilima (Sida fallax).

The shrubs can be used in xeric locations and may even be salt tolerant since it can be naturally found within a stone's throw from the ocean. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Pink
  • Purple
  • Red
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The beautiful five-petaled flowers are tiny compared with the leaves. Like many other Abutilon species the flowers are often hidden by the leaves.

Though only pink flowered forms are known in Hawaiʻi, colors can also be white, yellow, orange-yellow to orange in other parts of its natural range. The flower centers of Hawaiian flowers are reddish or wine-colored.

Note: The "Flower Colors" range above is only for the Hawaiian plants.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

In Hawaiʻi, the blooming period can be sporadic or year round.

On the continental USA, they flower from March to October.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

In culture, if over watered and/or fertilized with especially with high nitrogen, the leaves can become flaccid (sagging) and large, overwhelming the already small flowers. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Aphids seem to target new leaves. Whitefies and red spider mites may be problematic on mature leaves. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

More water produces larger leaves, but hides the already tiny flowers.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Though they prefer full sun, they can also naturally be found in partial sun under kiawe (Prosopis sp.), pluchea and other alien shrubs and trees. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Heat


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Kahoʻolawe

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Native to the Sonara Desert (s.w. Arizona, Baja, and Sinaloa in n. Mexico), Colorado, New Mexico, Texas (Edwards Plateau to w. Texas), [2] and in Hawaiʻi.

In Hawaiʻi it is questionably indigenous and found mainly on leeward sides in shrublands, grasslands, and dry forests on all the main islands except Hawaiʻi Island, from sea level to about 720 feet.

A. menziesii has been recorded from two areas in the lowlands adjacent to the Waiʻanae Mountains (Kapolei area and Lualualei). [Joel Lau, Botanist]. A. incanum grows in the vicinity and natural hybrids may be possible. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Maʻo or ʻilima pua kea are smaller relatives of hibiscuses belonging to the Mallow family (Malvaceae). There are some 150 species worldwide in the genus Abutilon.

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


The generic name Abutilon is derived from the Arabic awbūtīlūn (’abū ṭīlūn), for malvaceous (mallow-like) plants. [7,8]

The specific epithet incanum is from the Latin incanus, hoary-white or grey- or white-haired, in reference to the whitish fuzz that cover these plants. [8]

Hawaiian Names:

ʻIlima pua kea is literally translated "the ʻilima with white flowers" [1] and Koʻoloa kea is "the white koʻoloa." [5] Both names refer to similar native family members ʻilima (Sida fallax) and koʻoloa ʻula (Abutilon menziesii), respectively.

Maʻo is also the name used for the native cotton (Gossypium sandvicense), but also means "green." See below "Early Hawaiian Use."

Background Information

Outside of Hawaiʻi, this species is known as hoary abutilon, pelotazo, pelotazo chico, and tronadora. A. menziesii has been recorded from two areas in the lowlands adjacent to the Waiʻanae Mountains (Kapolei area and Lualualei). [Joel Lau, Botanist]. A. incanum grows in the vicinity and natural hybrids may be possible. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Early Hawaiian Use


A green (ʻōmaʻomaʻo) dye was made from the leaves of maʻo. [6]


Dried flowers and root bark were pounded together with other plants, and liquid was heated and used for stomachaches [3,4]

Modern Use

This abutilon can be used in dry flower arrangements. [2]

The tiny flowers may have use for lei since they seem to last a few days after picked. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additional References

[1] "A Chronicle and Flora of Niihau" by Juliet Rice Wichman and Harold St. John, page 109.

[2] University of Texas at Austin Native Plant Database http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ABIN [Accessed June 16, 2010]

[3] "Native American Ethnobotany" by Daniel E. Moerman, page 37.

[4] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value" by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 69.

[5] "Hoʻōla Hou I Ke Kino Kanalo" by Social Science Research Institute.

[6] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 187.

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

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

[9] http://www.definition-of.net/hoary [Accessed on 8/17/11]




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