Hawaiian Names with Diacritics
- Alyxia myrtillifolia
- Alyxia olivaeformis
- Alyxia oliviformis
- Alyxia sulcata
- Gynopogon olivaeformis
- Gynopogon stellatum
Endangered Species Status
Plant Form / Growth Habit
- Partially Woody / Shrub-like
- Sprawling Shrub
Mature Size, Height (in feet)
- Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
- Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
Mature Size, Width
6 to 8 feet.
Long lived (Greater than 5 years)
- Trellis or Fence Climber
Additional Landscape Use Information
Maile does well as understory plants with other native species such as ʻōhiʻa, koa, āulu or lonomea, mānele, pāpala kepau, and hāpuʻu.
Some forms are good for trellises, others a low growing shrubs.
Source of Fragrance
Additional Fragrance Information
Leaves are fragrant when bruised or crushed and smells like the common non-native lauaʻe or maile-scented fern commonly used in landscaping. The flowers also have the same nice fragrace as the leaves. Stripped bark gives a sweet odor resembling vanilla.
All parts of plant contain courmarin, which gives maile a pleasant fragrance.
Plant Produces Flowers
Additional Flower Color Information
The small pinwheel-like flowers are rather inconspicous at a distance. However, close up they can be quite attractive en mass and resemble their cousin hōlei (Ochrosia spp.).
Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information
Fruiting occurs mainly in fall and winter. The olive-shaped fruits (drupes) are dark purple and ooze a milky white sap when freshly picked.
Native birds such as the native thrush ʻōmaʻo (Myadestes spp.) eat the fruits, assisting in spreading maile throughout the native forests.
Additional Plant Texture Information
Along the stems of the vine there are 2, 3, or 4 leaves per node.
Early Hawaiians recognized various forms of maile based on leaf size, shape and fragrance, such as maile haʻi wale (brittle maile); maile lau liʻi (small-leaved maile); maile lau liʻi liʻi (very small-leaved maile); maile lau nui (big-leaved maile); maile kaluhea (sweet maile); and maile pakaha (blunt-leaved maile). However, even with the great variety in leaf shape, they still maintain the same characteristic form. Too, since there is no difference in the flowers or fruits taxonomists have recognized all forms as one species. 
- Dark Green
- Medium Green
Additional Leaf Color Information
Upper surface glossy.
Additional Pest & Disease Information
Apply a small amount of 13-13-13 fertilizer with minor elements every six months.
Some forms can grow quickly and in restricted areas where space is a premium and may need to be judiciously pruned.
Additional Water Information
Moist to dry conditions.
Soil must be well drained
- Full sun
- Partial sun
Additional Lighting Information
Some forms prefer full sun, with more frequent watering.
2 to 3 feet apart is recommended.
Maile has a poor salt tolerance.
Special Growing Needs
Vining forms should be provided with a trellis or shrubs to climb on.
Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)
- 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
Additional Habitat Information
Maile is occasionally to commonly found in most vegation types from dry, open sites to dense closed-canopy wet forest from about 160 to over 6500 feet. Lianas and vines can climb high into the canopy and also densely cover vegation in some areas, but is not invassive.
Though maile has not been recorded as existing on Niʻihau and Kahoʻolawe, both islands probably had populations in the past.
No longer considered as endemic to the Hawaiian Islands as Alyxia oliviformis, this variable indigenous plant can be found as twining lianas, scandent shrubs, or small erect shrubs from Australia, New Caledonia, and the Pacific islands as far as Hawaiʻi and Henderson Island. 
Maile is in the same family (Apocynaceae) as the non-native plumeria. Other natve Hawaiian family members include four species of hōlei (Ochrosia spp.), two species of kaulu (Pteralyxia spp.), and hao (Rauvolfia sandwicensis).
The generic name Alyxia is from the Greek alyktos, to be shunned.
The species has had a recent name change to stellata. The specific epithet stellata is Latin for star-shaped or covered [studded] with stars.
Fossils of Alyxia stellata are present in the solidified volcanic ash originating from the complex of volcanic vents in the land sections of Moanalua and Hālawa, Oʻahu. Included among these vents are the craters of Āliapaʻakai, Āliamanu, and Makalapa. [Joel Lau, Botanist]
Maile is one of the more commonly encountered native plants in its natural habitat.  This shrub or vine is very diverse ecologically and morphologically. Though there are some 13 different forms, only one has been given formal taxonomic status. 
Early Hawaiian Use
Other uses for maile were sticks attached to the end of the ʻaukuʻu (pole) used for catching birds (the maile was gummed with lime, and birds perching on it were caught). 
Maile was also the name of a snare used in catching plovers (kōlea) around the leg. 
Because new kapa has a strange smell, scented plants such as maile and ʻiliahi (sandalwood) were stored in large calabashes with the kapa used for clothing and bedding. 
Games & Sports:
Maile branches were also fashioned as a rod or wand used in the games of pūhenehene and ʻume. 
Maile was very much favored by early Hawaiians and all forms highly prized in lei making. [2,9,13] However, of the three mainly distinct forms: maile lau nui on Hawaiʻi Island, maile lau liʻi on Oʻahu, and maile lau liʻiliʻi on Kauaʻi, the latter with the smallest leaves were desired the most for lei making.  Several distinct forms were recognized and named by Hawaiians. (See "Additional Plant Texture Information")
The publication In Gardens of Hawaii notes: "Maile is used for leis for the people; for men, women, children; for the chiefs, the noted people, and the rich people; for the farmer, the oppressed, the branded servant...and because it was so very much desired by the people, therefore it was greatly used in the composing of songs, hulas, chants, dirges, and various other compositions." 
All parts of maile were used in steam baths to rid body odor. One variety known as maile kaluhea, meaning fragrant or sweet maile, was used in a washing fluid for abscesses, hemorrhoids, and deep lacerations.  An infusion was made of pounded maile and other plants and used in a sweat bath for yellow blotches on skin. 
Maile was important to Laka, the goddess of hula, and was used at her altar.
In earlier days, maile was used to secure an ox's neck to the yoke. 
Maile are traditional lei plants and one of the few plants grown for commercial use as lei material.  In one years time, the leaves of the new growing tips can be used for lei. [Native Nursery, LLC] Lei material is best harvested early in the morning. Maile lei are always worn open and draped. The lei last from one to four days in fresh condition.  Similar material is imported from the Cook Islands for lei. 
Lei maile vines are popular favorite for special occasions such as weddings, high school and college graduates, and other special occasions. 
 "Hawaiian Heritage Plants" by Angela Kay Kepler, pages 127, 128.
 "Na Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages 80-85.
 "The Variability of the Hawaiian Maile" by Harold St. John, pages 377-378, 386.
 "Hawaiʻi's Flower Leis" by Laurie Shimizu Ide, pages 80-81.
 "Lei Aloha--Flower Lei of Hawaiʻi with Instructions" by Marsha Heckman, page 48.
 "Plants of the Canoe People" by W. Arthur Whistler, page 35.
 http://www.k12.hi.us/~waianaeh/HawaiianStudies/index.html [accessed 8/21/07]
 "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value, by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 69.
 "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 209, 210.
 "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 690.
 http://www.wehewehe.org [Accessed 12/12/08]
 "Hawai'i's Plants and Animals--Biological Sketches of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park" by Charles P. Stone & Linda W. Pratt, page 255.
 "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, pages 127, 128.
 "Back to the Future in Caves of Kauaʻi--A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark" by David A.Burney, pages 139-140.
 "Paradisus: Hawaiian Plant Watercolors" by Geraldine King Tam and David J. Mabberley, page 32.
 "Revision of Alyxia (Apocynaceae). Part 2: Pacific Islands and Australia" by David J Middleton.
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Other Nursery Profiles for Alyxia stellata