Charpentiera ovata var. niuensis

leaf Main Plant Information






  • niuensis

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Pāpala

Hawaiian Names

  • Papala

Common Names

  • Koʻolau Range papala

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, Small, 15 to 30

Mature Size, Width

Plants have a spread of 10 feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Indoor
  • Hedges

Additional Landscape Use Information

Does well as an understory plant in moist or wet shady locations. If grown in pots, the bigger the pot, the bigger the plant will grow. In a 2 or 3 gallon pot they will grow about 3 or 4 feet tall and 7 or 8 feet in a 7 gallon container.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Red
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

Pāpala has several to numerous red flowers per spike. While the flowers themselves are insignificant, when combined with the bright red stems (panicles), the plant presents a showy display of inflorescence.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Pāpala is prone to aphids, spider mites, root mealy bugs and scale infestitaions.

leaf Growth Requirements


Pāpala are known to be heavy feeders. Apply a balanced slow release fertilizer with minor elements every 6 months. Foliar feed monthly with a kelp or fish emulsion, or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one- half to one-third of the recommended strength.

Pruning Information

The plants respond well to pruning. Prune just above an outward-facing leaf to encourage new branches.

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

This pāpala can tolerate both moist and wet conditions but prefers to be kept moist. This is a good plant for those people who tend to overwater.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Pāpala is an understory plant that tolerates shading. North or east facing locations are ideal. If plants are grown indoors they fare best facing south or west and placed away from the window, on opposite sides of the room.


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This variety is found only in the Niu and Wailupe Valleys in the southern Koʻolau Mountains, Oʻahu in dry to mesic gulch bottoms and lower gulch slopes. It has been recorded only from the eastern Honolulu area on the leeward (southern) side of the mountain range from Mānoa Valley to Kaʻalākei Valley. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Pāpala belong to the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). There are six species of Charpentiera, five endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and one, C. australis, found in the Austral (Tubuai and Raivavae) and Cook Islands (Rarotonga).

Other native Hawaiian family members include four other species in the same genus Charpentiera, a rare and little known amaranth (Amaranthus brownii) from Nīhoa, ʻāweoweo (Chenopodium oahuense), three species of Achyranthes, and three species of kuluʻī (Nototrichium spp.).

The variety niuensis can be distinguished from variety ovata by its smaller, nearly elliptic leaves.


The generic name Charpentiera was given by French botanist Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré (1789-1854) and named in memory of a 19th-century naval pharmacist and professor named Charpentier. [2]

The specific epithet is Latin, ovata, egg-shaped in reference to the leaf shape.

The varietal name niuensis, is in reference to Niu Valley, Oʻahu, one of the few places this species is found.

Early Hawaiian Use

Though this particular species of pāpala is not found naturally on Kauaʻi, the Hawaiian name "pāpala" did originate from a practice there. (See notes in this same section in Charpentiera obovata).

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 95-96.

[2] "Annales maritimes et coloniales" by Ministère de la marine et des colonies, Volume 2, Part 2, page 953.

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