Bobea elatior

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻAhakea
  • ʻAhakea lau nui

Hawaiian Names

  • Ahakea
  • Ahakea lau nui


  • Bobea gaudichaudii
  • Bobea platypes
  • Burneya gaudichaudii
  • Timonius gaudichaudii

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Dwarf, Less than 15
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent

Additional Landscape Use Information

Though ʻahakea is rather common in the wild, it is rarely seen in the landscape. It does well at least down to 300 feet in elevation. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Additional Fragrance Information

ʻAhakea have a slight fragrant.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White

Blooming Period

  • Summer
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Based on photos, ʻahakea blooms from June to September, but may do so prior to or beyond the months from June to September.

The roundish fruits are purple.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves papery to slightly leathery.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information


leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Under cultivation, scale and red spider mites can be problamatic if not controlled. Mealybugs, though not appearing to a problem, have been observed around leaf buds and new leaves. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Growth Requirements


Foliar feed them monthly for healthier growth.

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Water weekly and when dry.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

ʻAhakea appreciate morning sun, but do best with some partial sun in the hotter afternoons. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

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

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

ʻAhakea is found from 820 to over 3600 feet in mesic valleys and mesic to wet forest on Kauaʻi (Nāpali coast southeastward to Hāʻupu Ridge), Oʻahu (Waiʻanae and Koʻolau mountains), east Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Maui (West and East), and from only 2 collections from the Kohala Mountains on Hawaiʻi Island.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

This ʻahakea (Bobea elatior) is the most widespread of four species in the endemic genus Bobea. This small genus belongs to the Coffee family or Rubiaceae.


The generic name Bobea is named by Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré in 1830 for Jean-Baptiste Bobe-Moreau, physician and pharmacist in the French Marine.

The specific epithet elatior is Latin for higher or best. [7]

Hawaiian Names:

The name ʻAhakea lau nui literally means "ʻahakea with big leaves."

Early Hawaiian Use

Canoe Construction:

For canoe (waʻa) construction, the hard yellowish or reddish wood of ʻahakea was the most favorite wood for making gunwales strakes (moʻo), the forward end piece (lāʻau ihu), and the aft piece (lāʻau hope). [1,3,4,6] The moʻo were left unpainted with had a pleasing contrast with the black painted body of the waʻa itself. [9]

Canoe paddles were also made from ʻahakea wood. [5]

House Construction:

It was also the preferred to frame hale (house) doorways and door frames (lapauila) because the reddish or yellowish colored wood was a chiefly color. [2,6]

Household Furnishings:

Poi boards (papa kuʻi poi) were made from ʻahakea because its close grained wood. [4] Bowls were also made from the hard wood. [8]


ʻAhakea, mixed with kukui nuts, was also used medicinally to help with abscesses, burst sores (ʻili pūhō); scar, perhaps tuberculosis; (ʻalaʻala); and itch, ulcer (meʻeau). The bark and leaves were boiled and used to bathe in. [3]

Another treatment for abscesses, was to use ‘ahakea bark and ground with root bark of puakala ku kula (Argemone glauca), bark of ʻōhia ‘ai (Syzygium malaccense), and Coffee senna or ‘auko‘i (Senna occidentalis), and then placed in a mai‘a (banana) and used as a poultice. [8]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture," by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 50.
[2] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii," by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 100.

[3] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume II" by The Rerverend Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 43.

[4] "Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture" by Donald D. Kilolani Mitchell, page 130, 163.

[5] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, page 18.

[6] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, pages 70, 81.

[7] [Accessed 9/2/11]

[8] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" [Accessed 1/24/12]

[9] "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 129.

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