Colubrina asiatica

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kauila kukuku
  • Kauila ʻānapanapa
  • Kolokolo
  • Kukuku
  • ʻĀnapanapa

Hawaiian Names

  • Anapanapa
  • Kauila anapanapa
  • Kauila kukuku
  • Kolokolo
  • Kukuku

Common Names

  • Asian nakedwood
  • Asiatic snakewood
  • Latherleaf


  • Ceanothus asiatica

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Partially Woody / Shrub-like
  • Sprawling Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Mature Size, Width

It has an 8-foot spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Erosion Control
  • Ground Cover
  • Hedges
  • Screening

Additional Landscape Use Information

ʻĀnapanapa is considered passively agressive. If planted too close, the sprawling habit of these shrubs can overwhelm other native plants, climbing up and over them. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Once established, there is no need to water these plants except perhaps during a prolonged drought-like period. These xeric, or drought tolerant, plants have bright shiny green leaves that stay vibrant even in the harshest of conditions!

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Green
  • Yellow

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Produces small hard brownish seed capsules.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

1 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The name ʻānapanapa means "glistening," refering to the perpetually glossy leaves.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

ʻĀnapanapa is prone to ants, scale, mealy bugs and aphids.

leaf Growth Requirements


These hardy plants seem to have minimal fertilizer requirements to remain healthy and vibrant.

Pruning Information

ʻĀnapanapa may require heavy pruning to keep it in bounds in landscape settings. It can also be left as a free form shrub to help control erosion on hillsides or stream banks.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

These tough-as-nails plants can adapt to dry coastal areas but also will thrive in moist conditions. Once plants are well established, they require little watering.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

While ʻānapanapa does best in full sun it also does well in partial shade with some full sun each day.

Spacing Information

Plants should be spaced at least 3 to 4 feet apart.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This species has a very widespread range from east Africa, Indian Ocean islands, southeast Asia to Melasia and Australia and throughout the Pacific islands is attributed to the floating seeds that can remain viable for many months in salt water.

In Hawaiian Islands, it is naturally found growing in strand and coastal sites on Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, and West Maui (Launiupoko).

ʻĀnapanapa has also been recorded from the coastal zone of Lānaʻi from Kalaehī area (Maunalei region) to Kahalepalaoa (Pāwili region). [Kepā Maly, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻĀnapanapa is related to the very rare and endangered endemic kauila (Colubrina oppositifolia) with very few trees remaining in the wild.

They both belong to the Buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae) which include other native members as kauila or kauwila (Alphitonia ponderosa) and three endangered species of Gouania.


The generic name is derived from the Latin coluber, snake or like a serpent, referring to the snake-like stems or stamens. [3]

The Latin specific epithet asiatica is in reference to the Asian origin.

Hawaiian Names:

ʻĀnapanapa is also a name for an edible red seaweed or limu (limu loloa) in Hawaii and also a food for honu or green sea turtle. ʻAnapa means to sparkle or shine, in reference to its shiny leaves.

Kolokolo is a Niʻihau name for this plant.

Kukuku is pimply or pimpeled.

Background Information

The seeds of this species are highly dispersable via flotation. The seeds remain viable even after floating in saltwater for many months.

While ʻānapanapa is an indigenous plant in Hawaiʻi, it is a serious invasive species in Florida where it is not native.

In Hawaii, they do not have a tree habit.

ʻĀnapanapa has been mistakenly considered to be poisonous. [1]

Early Hawaiian Use

The common name "latherleaf" comes from the fact that the leaves are lathery when crushed and added to water used by early Hawaiians as a soap. [2,4]

Additional References

[1] "The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands" by J.F. Rock, page 283

[2] "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, page 238.

[3] "CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: A-C" by Umberto Quattrocchi, page 558.

[4] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 541.



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