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Astelia menziesiana

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Astelia

Species

menziesiana

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kaluaha
  • Paʻiniu
  • Puaʻakuhinia

Hawaiian Names

  • Kaluaha
  • Painui
  • Puaakuhinia

Common Names

  • Menzies' astelia

Synonyms

  • Astelia degeneri
  • Astelia forbesii
  • Astelia veratroides
  • Funckia menziesiana

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

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 1 to 3 feet in width and height.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

This attractive plant grows best under cool conditions (50-40°F) but can adapt to warmer temperatures. Fruits of paʻiniu (A. menziesiana) are small, attractive orange-yellow berries eaten by birds, which help to disperse the tiny seeds. [4]

Seed growth is best because seedlings adapt more easily to elevation changes. Individual plants are either male or female and both are needed for viable seed production. [2] Plants can be slow to moderate in growth but are well worth the patience. They can be grown in 5-gallon tubs. Use well-drained yet moisture retaining potting media such as orchid mix or hāpuʻu.

Paʻiniu does well as an ephiphyte "planted" directly onto hāpuʻu trunks.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Showy

Flower Colors

  • Purple
  • Red
  • White
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Flowers form long branching clustered spikes in an array of colors from yellow to purple to red. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. Only female plants bear fruit.

Blooming Period

  • April
  • May
  • June

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Bright orange or orange-yellow berries on female plants are very attractive. Fruit is produced on mature female plants in 2 to 3 years. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Birds are also attracted to the berries and eat them, which help to spread seeds. [1]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Paʻiniu grow as rosettes on tree branches and trunks as an epiphyte or terrestrial. The waxy leaves range from 8 inches to about four feet, and 1/2 to 3 inches wide. [3]

The leaves somewhat resemble the Bromeliads, commonly called "air plants" (Tillandsia spp.) in Hawaiʻi, but are not related to them.

Leaf Colors

  • Gray / Silverish
  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are silvery-green or green on top. Underneath the leaves can sometimes be white, golden or silver.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Mealybugs, spider mites.

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

Fertilizer needs are light but often. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC] Foliar feed plants using fish emulsion every 3 months.

Pruning Information

After fruiting, the spent flower stalks and leaves may be trimmed off for a cleaner appearance. But otherwise no pruning is required.

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Keep moist. Water when getting dry and monitor plant for proper moisture.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Partial sun
  • Shade

Additional Lighting Information

Plants can be grown as low as 2,000 feet in full sun in a dry climate with regular watering. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Spacing Information

2 to 3 feet apart. [9]

Soils

  • Cinder
  • Organic

Limitations

No tolerance to salt and grows poorly in windy conditions. Growth rate is slow to moderate. [9]

Special Growing Needs

Grow similar to epiphytic orchids or bromeliads. [9]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, Greater than 100 (Wet)

Habitat

  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Common to fairly common on most of the main islands, but rare on Oʻahu, from 2000 to over 7300 ft.

Paʻiniu are one of the few ephiphytic native flowering plants, but also grows as a terrestrial or lithophyte (on rocks). But because they are eaten by pigs, they are more likely to be seen out of reach in trees. [5]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Formerly, members of the Lily family (Liliaceae), paʻiniu (Astelia spp.) have recently been placed in the family Asteliaceae.

Of the three species of Astelia endemic to Hawaiʻi, Astelia menziesiana is most widespread in the islands and sometimes seen in cultivation. The other two, Astelia argyrocoma and the rare and endangered A. waialealae are restricted to Kauaʻi.

Etymology

The genus name Astelia is derived from the Greek, a, without, and stele, column or pillar, in reference to the habit of plants in this genus having little or no stem.

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

Background Information

On Oʻahu, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi, paʻiniu, as well as ʻieʻie (Freycinetia arborea), provide important breeding sites for the beautiful endemic Kōʻele Mountain damselfly (Megalegrion koelense) or pinao ʻula, relatives of dragonflies or pinao. Adult pinao ʻula breed and deposit their eggs in the leaf bases of paʻiniu where water pockets collect. It is in these critical spaces that the nymphs or naiads will live to maturity. [6]

Early Hawaiian Use

House Construction:

Paʻiniu was rarely used for house thatch. [8]

Lei:

Early Hawaiians used the silvery leaves in lei. [3,7]

Other Uses:

Hats were braided from the shiny outer leaves, sometimes with other plant materials, as a sign that one had visited Kīlauea Crater. [8,10]

Modern Use

Paʻinui leaves are still incorporated in modern lei for neck, head, wrist, ankle, and for the horse. [9,11]

Additional References

[1] "Trailside Plants of Hawaiʻi's National Parks" by Charles H. Lamoureux, page 19.

[2] "The Families of Flowering Plants: Asteliaceae Dum." by L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz http://delta-intkey.com/angio/www/asteliac.htm [accessed 12/17/08]

[3] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 77, 276.

[4] "Hawaii: A Natural History" by Sherwin Carlquist, page 97.

[5] "A Hiker's Guide to Trailside Plants in Hawaiʻi" by John B. Hall, page 179.

[6] "Hawaiian Damselfies--A Field Indentification Guide" by Dan Polhemus and Adam Asquith, pages 17, 63.

[7] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages 126-127.

[8] "Hawaiian Dictionary" by Mary Kawena Pukui & Samuel H. Elbert, page 303.

[9] "Growing Plants for Hawaiian Lei" by CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources), Universirty of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, pages 36-37.

[10] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page192.

[11] "Hawai'i's Plants and Animals--Biological Sketches of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park" by Charles P. Stone & Linda W. Pratt, page 201.

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