Brighamia rockii

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Brighamia

Species

rockii

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Hāhā
  • Pua ʻala
  • Ālula

Hawaiian Names

  • Alula
  • Haha
  • Pua ala

Common Names

  • Molokaʻi ʻōhāhā

Synonyms

  • Brighamia remyi
  • Cabbage-On-a-Baseball-Bat
  • Cabbage-On-a-Stick

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10

Mature Size, Width

Pua ʻala is a tall shrub with a cluster of leaves atop a narrow stocky trunk.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

While pua 'ala is not currently as commonly seen or used in the landscape as its Kauaʻi cousin ālula, it is easy to grow and flower if proper conditions are met. These succulent plants do very well in heavy cement, terra cotta or porcelain pots. The weight of the pots will not only provide good aeration but keep plants from toppling in wind. Pua ʻala require dry conditions in a partly sunny location. They can be given frequent watering in pots but use a well-aerated soil mix (i.e. for succulents and cactus) that allows for immediate or perfect drainage. Black cinder is an excellent component to add to the soil mix in pots.

If planted in the ground, provide very good drainage and protection from pests, especially slugs and African snails.

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Additional Fragrance Information

The smell has been desribed "like violets" by early botanist George Munro. [5]

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The petal (corolla) tube is white to greenish-white.

Blooming Period

  • September
  • October

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Flowers can be induced any time of the year in cultivation.

Blooming period in the wild is September and October.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves only at the top of the plant in a rosette. The stem is very thick.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

The introduced carmine spider mites (Tetranychus cinnabarinus) can be a serious problem. Leafminers can be an occasional problem.

Slugs and snails, particularly African snails, can be a great threat to their very survival especially if plants are in the ground.

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

Responds well to regular applications of foliar fertilizer or to biannual applications of slow release fertilizers. Fertilizing with a high phosphorous fertilizer will induce blooming. Apply 3 months before.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Allow to dry between waterings. Over watering can easily lead to root rot and the kill plant or make the plant susceptible to other fungal infections.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Does best in partial shade.

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray

Soils

  • Cinder

Limitations

Best if grown in pots due to slug and snail damage.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 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)

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Pua ʻala is found on windward sea cliffs from sea level to about 1540 feet and restricted to windward Molokaʻi from Kalaupapa to Hālawa and on a few offshore islands where strong trade winds and salt air are present much of the time. [4]

With less than 200 of the highly endangered Brighamia rockii remaining in the wild, Huelo Islet’s small population of this declining species is significant. However, these plants occur on Huelo’s steep cliffs and are subject to being killed by soil erosion, rockslides, and falling loulu (Pritchardia hillebrandii). [8]

In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) designated critical habitat in on Mōkapu for rare plants, including Brighamia rockii. Although no longer found here due to rats. However, with the eradication of rats in February 2008, Mōkapu is an important step toward species recovery. [8]

Also, in 2003, the USFWS designated critical habitat on Keōpuka for Peucedanum sandwicense and for Brighamia rockii. Although Brighamia rockii is not currently found on the islet, establishing a population on Keōpuka would also be an important step towards species recovery. [8]

It is possible that it was formerly found on Lānaʻi (Maunalei Valley) [5] and Maui.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The two species belong to the endemic genus Brighamia in the Campanulaceae or Bellflower family with some 2,000 species in 70 genera. This family is well represented in the Hawaiian Islands with some 130 species--all endemic!

Other native Hawaiian genera Clermontia, Cyanea, Delissea, Lobelia and Trematolobelia--all endemic genera except Lobelia.

Etymology

The endemic genus Brighamia, is named for William Tufts Brigham (1841-1926), geologist, botanist and the first direction of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

The specific epithet rockii is named for Joseph Frances Charles Rock (1884-1962), an Austrian-American botanist who did much to help our current understanding of native Hawaiian plants.

Hawaiian Names:

Pua ʻala means "fragrant flower."

Background Information

The two species are similar in some respects. But pua ʻala (Brighamia rockii) from Molokaʻi has white flowers while ālula (Brighamia insignis) has yellow flowers. George Munro says that Hillebrand, an earlier botanist, compared this plant to a "big cabbage on a naked pole." [5]

While both species can grow to an amazing height of 16 feet, Brighamia insignis tends to be a larger plant than B. rockii. [1,3] Ālula and pua ʻala are perfectly designed for their windy habitats on steep coastal cliffs. The roots penetrate into rocky crevices and the swollen base of the plants allows them to rock in the strong wind. [2]

Both species of Brighamia have lost their natural pollinators and now need hand pollination for fruit and seed production.

They may have been bird pollinated. [7]

Early Hawaiian Use

Hawaiians of former times in Wailau Valley (Molokaʻi) cultivated pua ʻala around their homes to enjoy the sweet fragrant flowers. [4]

Lei:

One older source (Charles Gaudichaud,1819) states that Hawaiians "used all fragrant plants, all flowers and even colored fruits" for lei making. Red or yellow were indicative of divine and chiefly rank; purple flowers and fruit, or with fragrance, were associated with divinity. Because of their long-standing place in oral tradition, the fragrant yellow flowers ālula were likely used for lei making by early Hawaiians, even though there are no written sources. [4]

Medicinal:

Botanist Otto Degener notes: "Brighamia, called by various natives puaala, alula, ohaha, was eaten raw as a supposed remedy for consumption and various other diseases." [6]

Modern Use

Residents of Kalaupapa are said to still cultivate pua ʻala in their gardens and use the leaves as an edible vegetable. [6]

Additional References

[1] "Recovery Plan for Kauaʻi Plant Cluster," pages 24, 26.
[2] "Hawaiʻi's Vanishing Flora" by Bert Y. Kimura & Kenneth M. Nagata, page 58.
[3] "Recovery Plan for Molokaʻi Plant Cluster," page 30.

[4] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages XIV-XV, 138-139.

[5] "The Story of Lānaʻi" by George C. Munro, pages 62, 71, 220, 221.

[6] "Plants of Hawaii National Parks" by Otto Degener, pages 288, 290.

[7] "The Hawaiian Honeycreeper: Drapandidae" by H. Douglas Pratt, page 18.

[8] Offshore Islet Restoration Committee http://hawaiioirc.org/OIRC-ISLETS.htm [Accessed 8/9/13]

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