Argemone glauca

leaf Main Plant Information






  • decipiens
  • glauca

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kala
  • Naule
  • Pua kala
  • Pōkalakala

Hawaiian Names

  • Kala
  • Naule
  • Pokalakala
  • Pua Kala

Common Names

  • Beach poppy
  • Hawaiian poppy
  • Hawaiian prickly poppy

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Herbaceous, Medium, 1-3
  • Herbaceous, Tall, Greater than 3

Mature Size, Width

From 2 to 4 feet or more.

Life Span

Short lived (Less than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Hedges
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Prickles on the leaves can be advantageous in directing foot traffic. The few "negative" aspects of pua kala are certainly outweighed by the contrast of the delicate brilliant white and yellow flowers combined with the attractive spiny bluish-green foliage. These positive attributes make pua kala a worthy addition to the landscape!

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • White
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Bright white open petals surround a deep yellow center. Yellow stamens (male flower parts) and purple stigma (female flower parts) combine to form the flowers center.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Flowers are delicate and each only last a day but new flowers open daily during the blooming period. The flowers will wilt almost immediately after being picked.

Seeds form in the prickly capsules which are usually held upright. When ripe, the seed capsules turn brown and split, exposing blackish brown seeds which are tolerant of fire and will sprout after an area has been recently burned. [2] Seeds can be collected or allowed to fall on the site from the mother plant for future on site germination.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Pua kala have sharp yellowish prickles on leaves, stems and seed capsules.

Leaf Colors

  • Gray / Silverish
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

There is a bluish waxy cast (glaucous) to the plant, hence the species name "glauca."

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Other than occasionally spider mites few pests bother pua kala. Cattle will not eat the plants. [1]

leaf Growth Requirements


Fertilizers are optional. Some suggest fertilizing every 3 to 6 months. But fertilizers tend to cause unnaturally large growth. Plants appear to very perform well even without additional fertilizers and in poor soils. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

After primary stalks have aged and have begun to wither, cut them back. New shoots will often emerge near the base. If young seed pods and flowers are cut regularly, flowering will be encouraged.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Pua kala is one of the few plants that can tolerate very dry, windy locations in hardpan soil. [3]

These are xeric (drought tolerant) plants. Will do best when allowed to dry out between waterings. Too much watering, too often may result in top heavy plants which tend to fall over. Large deep waterings once or twice a week in hot summer days is better than small daily watering.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Additional Lighting Information

These plants can tolerate partial sun but will flower less, look scraggy, and will be more likely to fall over. Full sun is preferred for best growth and flowering potential.

Spacing Information

Plant 2 to 4 feet apart.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Heat


  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic


Pua kala is generally covered in sharp prickles on branches and leaves. But some types have fewer or no prickles.

They can be potentially weedy.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

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

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Additional Habitat Information

Uncommon to locally common throughout its range.

The species is divided into two varieties:

  • var. decipiens is found in dry to subalpine areas on the leeward side of the saddle region between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Hawaiʻi Island at 2000 to over 6200 feet.
  • var. glauca is found from sea level to over 1700 feet in the leeward coastal dry woodland on all main islands and recently rediscovered on Kauaʻi. On Hawaiʻi Island, this variety is restricted to South Point (Ka Lae).

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Pua kala is the only poppy native to Hawaiʻi in the Poppy family (Papaveraceae) and a close relative of the Mexican poppy (Argemone mexicana), which is naturalized in the islands. A hybrid between the two species was collected at Pāʻia, Maui but did not produce seed.

The two varieties of Argemone glauca are separated by a few differences such as the number of prickles on the capsules, with var. decipiens being about twice as prickly.

One of the few native plants that can survive fires, pua kala has been seen to re-appear after soon after an area has been burned. [8]


The genus name Argemone is derived from the Greek argema, cataract, in refernce to the use of the sap of type of poppy reputed to cure cataracts.

The specific epithet glauca is from the Greek, glaukos, for blue-green or blue-gray referring to the color of this poppy's leaves.

The subspecific name decipiens is from the Latin deceptum, deceptive or misleading.

Hawaiian Name:
Pua kala literally means "thorny flower." [8] This is also the name given to a native lobelia (Cyanea solenocalyx) with prickly leaves, found in gulches of Molokaʻi.

The name Pōkalakala is also used for Polyscias racemosa [syn. Munroidendron racemosum].

Background Information

Pua kala is one of the few endemic plants with prickles or thorns.

It is also one of the few truly toxic native Hawaiian plants (See notes under "Limitations"). Unlike its relative the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), it does not, however, contain morphine or codine. [4] However, pua kala does house alkaloids that irritate the stomach and intestines. [1] But because of the extremely bitter taste there have been few reported poisonings.

The acrid taste is also unpalatable to cattle. [1]

Strangely, it has been considered as a "weed" by some in the Hawaiian Islands, even though it is an endemic plant. [6]

Early Hawaiian Use

Even with the toxic background, the early Hawaiians used the bright yellow sap (latex) and seeds medicinally for toothache pain, neuralgia (nerve pain), and ulcers. [2,4,5,7]

The sap was also used for warts. [2,4,5]

Modern Use

One of the few native plants found in cow pastures. [4] Since cattle [1] and possibly other ungulates (goats, sheep) will not eat pua kala, it may be used the plants as a beautiful and natural border hedge for unwanted grazers from entering into fragile areas.

Additional References

[1] "Poisonous Plants of Paradise" by Susan Scott and Craig Thomas, MD. University of Hawaii Press. 2000, pages 75-77.
[2] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 298.

[3] "Dryland Forest & Shrubland" by Burt Lum [accessed 2/17/09]

[4] "Hawaiian Forest Plants" by Mark Merlin, page 17.

[5] "Native Plants Used as Medicine in Hawaii" by Beatrice Krauss, page 44.

[6] "Handbook of Hawaiian Weeds" by E. L. Haselwood, page 160.

[7] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 367.

[8] "Hawai'i's Plants and Animals--Biological Sketches of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park" by Charles P. Stone & Linda W. Pratt, page 105.



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