Abutilon menziesii

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Koʻoloa ʻula

Hawaiian Names

  • Kooloa ula

Names with Unknown Sources

  • Red abutilon
  • Red ilima

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Mature Size, Width

Minimum height to width ratio 2:1.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

These are attractive shrubs with silvery-green foliage and beautiful flowers. Koʻoloa ʻula was one of the first Hawaiian endangered species to be used in urban landscapes in Hawaiʻi. An excellent heat and drought tolerant plant for very sunny and dry areas. Best not to over water koʻoloa ʻula for best flower production.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Cream
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

The small hibiscus-shaped flowers generally hang downward. Though charming up close, the flowers can be hidden by the much larger leaves and not often visible at a distance. Of course, there are exceptions especially with smaller- or narrow-leaved forms.

Although the Hawaiian name ʻula refers to the more commonly seen red color, koʻoloa ʻula flowers are known in a range of colors: pink, pink and white, pale red, maroon, deep purplish-red (wine), salmon, and blond or butter. The center or staminal column is yellowish.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

If flowers and seed pods are picked, flowering will continue. During the hottest parts of the year, flowering may cease or slow down, for a month or two. But generally, flowers are seen throughout most of the year.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The attractive leaves are variable in shape and have a velvety (pubescent) feel to them. Leaves range between 1 and 5 inches.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The intensity of the pubescence varies with the form, amount of sunlight and water.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Chinese rose beetles will often chew unsightly holes in leaves. Aphids and mealybugs can be a problem around flower buds.

Black sooty mold can be due to overwatering or in periods of continuous heavy rainfall.

leaf Growth Requirements


Apply a balanced slow release fertilizer with minor elements every six months. While an occasional foliar feeding is beneficial, monitor the frequency and amounts of applications. Over fertilizing, especially with nitrogen, can cause large floppy foliage, producing fewer flowers and encourages leaf-eating pests. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

Koʻoloa ʻula can be pruned to desired height. Avoid cutting branches too far back to the leafless wood because plants may not re-branch.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

It is best to water the ground beneath the shrubs to avoid excessive water on the foliage and branches which can lead to fungal problems. Allow soil to dry between waterings. Black sooty mold forming on leaves and stems, as well as a lower flower production, are tell tale signs of overwatering. Prolonged rainy periods may also cause black sooty mold to form but plants usually bounce back in the dry season. Once established there is little reason to provide additional water except in very dry periods. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Best grown in full sun for good health and highest flower production.

Spacing Information

Space them 4 to 6 feet a part to showcase individual shrubs in the landscape, or 2 to 5 feet for hedge plantings.


  • Drought
  • Heat


  • Clay
  • Cinder
  • Organic


Some forms handle wind better than others. But generally best to shelter from strong wind.

Koʻoloa ʻula does not tolerate salt spray conditions.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

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

Locally uncommon to rare in dry forests.

Abutilon menziesii has also been recorded from Lānaʻi; West Maui with a single recorded location at Pōhākea Gulch; East Maui on the western flank of Haleakalā; and Hawaiʻi Island in South Kohala. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

Some of the largest natural populations occur on the island of Lānaʻi. [Robert Hobdy, Botanist]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Koʻoloa ʻula 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: one 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.

The species epithet menziesii refers to Archibald Menzies (1754-1842) a Scottish surgeon and naturalist, and the first to taxonomically identify the species.

Hawaiian Name:

See above "Additonal Flower Color Information."

Background Information

Artificial (man-made) crosses between the two endemics Abutlion menziesii x A. sandwicense have been produced. However, natural hybrids of this combination could potentially be found on the western side of Oʻahu in or near the Waiʻanae Mountains. Abutilon sandwicensis is endemic to the Waiʻanae Mountains, and 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


The flowers were used in lei making. [1]


The juice of the red blossoms was used as a laxative. [2]

Modern Use

The flowers do not wilt quickly, making koʻoloa ʻula a nice lei flower. [1]

This species easily hybridizes with the hidden-petaled abuliton (Abutilon eremitopetalum), a Lānaʻi endemic, producing an interesting cross with a balance of nice characteristics from both parents. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additional References

[1] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 52.

[2] "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, page 239.

[3] [Accessed 11/4/10]

[4] [Accessed on 8/17/11]

[5] [Accessed on 8/17/11]



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