Boerhavia repens

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Alena
  • Anena
  • Nena

Hawaiian Names

  • Alena
  • Anena
  • Nena

Common Names

  • Red spiderling


  • Boerhavia diffusa
  • Boerhavia mutabilis
  • Boerhavia tentrandra

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

No data available.

Life Span

Short lived (Less than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Ground Cover

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves are egg shaped.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Pinkish stems. Leaves are pale green.

leaf Pests and Diseases

leaf Growth Requirements


Feed small amounts of 8-8-8 NPK fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Coral

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

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

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Alena is found on all the Main Hawaiian Islands and on many of the Northwest Islands: Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, Pearl & Hermes Atoll, Lisianski, Laysan, French Frigate Shoals, and and collected only once on Nīhoa at Adam's Beach in 1923 during the Tanager Expeditions. [3]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Alena (Boerhavia repens) is a member of Nyctaginaceae, the Four O'Clock Family, with about 300 species worldwide. Other native relatives are five Hawaiian native species of Pisonia spp.

Two other species of Boerhavia are native to the islands: B. acutifolia, indigenous, and B. herbstii, endemic. [4]


The generic name Boerhavia was named for Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738), a Dutch botany professor.

The specific name repens is Latin for creeping, in reference to its habit of creeping along the ground.

Hawaiian Names:

Anena is a Niʻihau name for this plant.

Nena is also another name for kīpūkai (Heliotropium curassavicum), an indigenous coastal herb in the Hawaiian Islands.

Early Hawaiian Use

Early Hawaiians used the large roots of alena for medicinal purposes, but otherwise was/is of minor use in the Hawaiian Islands and Polynesia, particularly Samoa. [2,4]

Early Uses Outside of the Hawaiian Islands:

Reportedly either/both species of Boerhavia acutifolia and B. repens were used as a famine food in Samoa known as ufi ʻātuli, and in Tonga as aka taha. [4]

Modern Use

Today, alena is still used medicinally by local herbalists for menstrual/musculoskeletal pain, and edema or bladder infection when mixed with other plant materials. [1,2]

Additional References

[1] "Medicine at Your Feet: Healing Plants of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume 1" by David Bruce Leonard, page 41.

[2] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, pages 336-337.

[3] "Natural History of Nihoa and Necker Islands" by Neal L. Evenhuis, page 55.

[4] "Plants of the Canoe People" by W. Arthur Whistler, pages 47, 48.

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This record is as complete as we can generate for this plant profile at this point. Please email if you wish to contribute to the data. Please include sources and references for all data submitted