Charpentiera ovata var. ovata

leaf Main Plant Information






  • ovata

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Pāpala

Hawaiian Names

  • Papala

Common Names

  • Koʻolau Range papala


  • Charpentiera obovata var. ovata

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 has been known to have an 11-foot spread.

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 flowers per branch. While the flowers themselves are insignificant, when combined with the bright red stems (panicles), this plant presents a showy display of inflorescence.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves range from 2 to 11 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

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

leaf Growth Requirements


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

Pruning Information

Responds well to pruning. Prune just above an outward facing leaf to encourage new branching.

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

Plants can tolerate both moist and wet conditions. A great plant for people who tend to overwater.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Plants need partial shade with more moisture and does well in brightly lit situations. Indoors, it requires a well lit room or with florescent lighting most of the day. This is an understory plant that tolerates shading. North or east facing areas are best. If plants are grown indoors they are best placed in areas facing south or west areas and away from the window, on opposite side of the room.


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

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

Plants grow in mesic to mesic-wet forest, in gulch bottoms and on lower gulch slopes.

It is endemic to Oʻahu (leeward side of the southern Koʻolau Mountains; Waiʻanae Mountains, at least one location in the southern part of the mountain range), East Molokaʻi, West and East Maui), and Hawaiʻi. [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.


Background Information

Regarding hybridizing among the native Charpentiera species, Hawaiʻi Botanist Joel Lau makes the following observations:

"Also occurring in this part of the Koʻolau Mountains are plants that seem to be of hybrid origin between C. tomentosa var. maakuaensis and C. ovata var. ovata. However, those plants are not found on this seaward part of the ridge system between the valleys of Waikāne, Kahana, Hakipuʻu, Kaʻaʻawa, and Makaua; I have seen those plants only much farther inland, growing near the base of the windward Koʻolau cliffs in the valley of Waikāne."

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, page 95.

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



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