gallery

Alyxia stellata

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Alyxia

Species

stellata

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Maile

Hawaiian Names

  • Maile

Synonyms

  • Alyxia myrtillifolia
  • Alyxia olivaeformis
  • Alyxia oliviformis
  • Alyxia sulcata
  • Gynopogon olivaeformis
  • Gynopogon stellatum

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Indigenous

Endangered Species Status

No 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.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • 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

  • Leaves

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

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White
  • Orange
  • White
  • Yellow

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.).

Blooming Period

  • Fall
  • Winter

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.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

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. [3]

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Upper surface glossy.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Scale

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

Apply a small amount of 13-13-13 fertilizer with minor elements every six months.

Pruning Information

Some forms can grow quickly and in restricted areas where space is a premium and may need to be judiciously pruned.

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Moist to dry conditions.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Some forms prefer full sun, with more frequent watering.

Spacing Information

2 to 3 feet apart is recommended.

Tolerances

  • Drought

Soils

  • Clay
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

Limitations

Maile has a poor salt tolerance.

Special Growing Needs

Vining forms should be provided with a trellis or shrubs to climb on.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

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

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)

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

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. [16]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

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).

Etymology

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.

Background Information

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. [15] 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. [12]

Early Hawaiian Use

Bird Catching:

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).  [11]

Maile was also the name of a snare used in catching plovers (kōlea) around the leg. [11]

Clothing:

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. [9]

Games & Sports:

Maile branches were also fashioned as a rod or wand used in the games of pūhenehene and ʻume. [11]

Lei:

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. [5] 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." [10]

Medicinal:

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. [7] An infusion was made of pounded maile and other plants and used in a sweat bath for yellow blotches on skin. [8]

Religion:

Maile was important to Laka, the goddess of hula, and was used at her altar.

Modern Use

In earlier days, maile was used to secure an ox's neck to the yoke. [11]

Maile are traditional lei plants and one of the few plants grown for commercial use as lei material. [14] 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. [4] Similar material is imported from the Cook Islands for lei. [15]

Lei maile vines are popular favorite for special occasions such as weddings, high school and college graduates, and other special occasions. [6]

Additional References

[1] "Hawaiian Heritage Plants" by Angela Kay Kepler, pages 127, 128.
[2] "Na Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages 80-85.
[3] "The Variability of the Hawaiian Maile" by Harold St. John, pages 377-378, 386.

[4] "Hawaiʻi's Flower Leis" by Laurie Shimizu Ide, pages 80-81.

[5] "Lei Aloha--Flower Lei of Hawaiʻi with Instructions" by Marsha Heckman, page 48.

[6] "Plants of the Canoe People" by W. Arthur Whistler, page 35.

[7] http://www.k12.hi.us/~waianaeh/HawaiianStudies/index.html [accessed 8/21/07]

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

[9] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 209, 210.

[10] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 690.

[11] http://www.wehewehe.org [Accessed 12/12/08]

[12] "Hawai'i's Plants and Animals--Biological Sketches of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park" by Charles P. Stone & Linda W. Pratt, page 255.

[13] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, pages 127, 128.

[14] "Back to the Future in Caves of Kauaʻi--A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark" by David A.Burney, pages 139-140.

[15] "Paradisus: Hawaiian Plant Watercolors" by Geraldine King Tam and David J. Mabberley, page 32.

[16] "Revision of Alyxia (Apocynaceae). Part 2: Pacific Islands and Australia" by David J Middleton.

leafMore Links

Plant Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Back to Plant List

Plant List

Other Nursery Profiles for Alyxia stellata