Clermontia arborescens

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Clermontia

Species

arborescens

Subspecies

  • arborescens
  • waihiae
  • waikoluensis

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Hāhā
  • ʻŌhā
  • ʻŌhā wai
  • ʻŌhā wai nui

Hawaiian Names

  • Haha
  • Oha
  • Oha wai
  • Oha wai nui

Synonyms

  • Clermontia furcata
  • Clermontia mannii
  • Clermontia waikoluensis
  • Delissea fauriei
  • Delissea waihiae

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

Endangered Species Status

At Risk

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30

Mature Size, Width

Terrestrial or ephiphytic shrubs. ʻŌhā wai nui has a 6 foot spread. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

ʻŌhā wai nui has a beautiful Clermontia form and should be grown like other medium wet species. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White
  • Pink
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Depending on the subspecies, the showy flowers are greenish or greenish-white flowers with greenish-white or magenta interior. [3]

Blooming Period

  • Summer

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

The flowers are large and fleshy lobelioid-type flowers and bloom in late summer. They produce large orange fruits. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Terrestrial or epiphytic tress or shrub with glossy oblong leaves ranging between 2 and 4 inches.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Root rot. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

Responds well to low fertilizer applied often. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Pruning Information

Do not prune. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Water Requirements

  • Wet

Additional Water Information

High amounts of water with good drainage. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Soils

  • Organic

Limitations

Susceptible to root rot, but good drainage helps. Does not tolerate waterlogging. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, Greater than 100 (Wet)

Additional Habitat Information

ʻŌhā wai nui inhabit mesic to montane rain forests and cloud forests.

The subspecies arborescens (ʻĪao Valley to Hanaʻula, West Maui) is considered rare, while subsp. waihiae (northern West Maui, East Maui) and subsp. waikoluensis (east Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi) are apparently secure in numbers. [1]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The twenty-two Clermontia species (ʻōhā wai) are among the more common of the lobelioides (Campanulaceae), but also include some rare and endangered species. Clermontia are "candelabra-like" branching, woody shrubs or small trees. While nearly all the species are found as terrestrials, over half of the species also grow as epiphytes, that is they grow on other plants, with one species always found as such. As epiphytes, they are often found on mossy-trunks or branches of larger trees such as koa, ʻōhiʻa, and ʻōlapa (Cheirodendron trigynum). [1]

Clermontia produce two or more flowers on a typical inflorescence and pollinated by honeycreepers (e.g. ʻiʻiwi, ʻakialoa) seeking nectar. [2] Yellow or orange berries are produced after flowering.

The distinguishing characteristics of the three subspecies belonging to Clermontia arborescens is found in the shape of the calyces, or sepals, the part of the flower just below the petals (corolla).

The Hawaiian name for this species (C. arborescens), ʻŌhā wai nui, means "big ʻōhā wai" in reference to the large flowers.

Early Hawaiian Use

Early Hawaiians used ʻōhā wai (Clermontia spp.), in general, as a minor food source. The leaves were boiled before eating. The berries were eaten fresh and are said to have a sweet taste. However, the berries of ʻōhā wai nui (C. arborescens)are said to be "not so tasty." [6]

The latex of half-ripe berries of ʻōhā wai nui (C. arborescens) were mixed with sweet potato (ʻuala) and used to restore or increase breast milk production [4,5]. The latex was also used to treat asthmatics or to treat deep puncture wounds when mixed with ʻakoko (Chamaesyce celastroides var. lorifolia). The flowers were fed to children suffering from pāʻaoʻao (childhood disease, with physical weaknesses). The flowers and fruits were given to babies to cure lepo paʻa (constipation). [6]

Additonally, the sticky latex mix was used in pīlali, or bird lime, to snare small forest birds for feathers for cloaks, capes, helmets, lei, and kāhili. The flowers of ʻōhā wai were used to lure the victims in kia manu (bird-catching by gumming). [1] How ironic that the very plants that the honeycreepers seek as a food source would also be used to lure them to be ensnared.

Modern Use

With their general ease of cultivation, several species of Clermontia are slowly being incorporated into home landscaping.

Additional References

[1] "Systematic Botany Monographs, Volume 32, Systematics of Clermontia (Campanulaceae-Lobelioideae)" by Thomas Lammers, pages 5, 6, 10-11, 24-30.
[2] "The Hawaiian Honeycreeper (Drapanididae)" by H. Douglas Pratt, pages 18, 144.
[3] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 256.
[4] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value" by D. M. Kaaiakamanu, J. K. Akina, page 30.
[5] "Native American Ethnobotany" by Daniel E. Moerman, page 170.

[6] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 78.

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