Hawaiian Names with Diacritics
- Hawaiian ebony
- Hawaiian persimmon
- Diospyros ferrea var. sandwicensis
- Ebenus sandwicensis
- Maba degeneri
- Maba kauaiensis
- Maba sandwicensis
- Maba toppingii
Did You Know ?
Lama is closely related to ebony, known for its prized black wood, and also persimmon, with its delicous sweet fruit.
Endangered Species Status
Plant Form / Growth Habit
Mature Size, Height (in feet)
- Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
- Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
- Tree, Small, 15 to 30
Mature Size, Width
Lama is known to have a spread greater than 20 feet.
Long lived (Greater than 5 years)
- Provides Shade
- Specimen Plant
Additional Landscape Use Information
The trees can be slow growing, especially when young. Plant in ground at a young age.
Lama is not suitable as a potted plant and will eventually weaken if not planted out into the landscape.
Plant Produces Flowers
Additional Flower Color Information
The plant has very small waxy greenish-white or pink flowers.
- Year Round
Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information
Female lama bloom and produce fruits once a year. The small yellow to reddish orange fruit are edible and are bland to mildly sweet.
Additional Plant Texture Information
Leaves are thick and leathery.
- Light Green
Additional Leaf Color Information
The colors of new growth (liko) range from vibrant shades of red, magenta, pink or orange.
Additional Pest & Disease Information
Lama is prone to scale, a small gray weevil (unidentified species) and Chinese rose beetles which affect tree growth. To discourage the Chinese rose beetles, plant the trees under a porch, street or yard light. You can also plant tall grass around the plant to keep these pests away. Black twig borers is also a major threat.
Scale sometimes attack young lama if too much fertilizer is used. 
For small trees an application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements every six 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. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Generally not required. But it should be minimal and selective if necessary.
Additional Water Information
Once lama is well established water once a month during dry months.
Soil must be well drained
- Full sun
- Partial sun
Additional Lighting Information
Lama does best in full sun but can grow in moderate shade.
Slow growing. This plant does not do well in pots and will eventually die or severely stunt its growth.
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)
Additional Habitat Information
Lama can be a principal or minor part of the dry and mesic forests, and sometimes in wet forests from about 15 to 4000 feet on all of the main islands, except Niʻihau and Kahoʻolawe. On the island of Hawaiʻi, lama can be found growing in open lava fields.
Lama belong to a family consisting of 450-500 species in the genus Diospyros. 
The two native species are lama or ēlama are Diospyros sandwicensis, native to most of the main islands, and D. hillebrandii found on Kauaʻi and Oʻahu.
Some of the notable family members include species prized for their beautiful wood such as the pure black wood of the Ceylon ebony (Diospyros ebenum) and the striped ebony or Makassar (D. celebica). Other relatives have edible fruit such as the deliciously sweet Japanese persimmon or kaki (D. kaki), and the highly nutritious American persimmon (D. virginiana). 
The generic name Diospyros is derived from the Greek, dios, god (Jove, Zeus, Jupiter), and pyros, grain in reference to the edible fruit in some species.
The species name sandwicensis refers to the "Sandwich Islands," as the Hawaiian Islands were once called, and named by James Cook on one of his voyages in the 1770's. James Cook named the islands after John Montagu (The fourth Earl of Sandwich) for supporting Cook's voyages.
Lama means “light” or “enlightenment."  How apropos that the Kapiʻolani Community College Library (Oʻahu) building is called Lama.
A modern-day section of Honolulu, a school, and a canal are all named Kapālama, means "the lama wood enclosure," where high chiefs were protected. Pālama, a street and another section of Honolulu, means "lama wood enclosure." 
Early Hawaiian Use
The wood was used for the framework of houses, temple construction, and handles for stone chisels. [2,6,9]
Lama sticks (ʻaukā) to strengthen large one-way-in-no-way-out fish traps.  Lama lama means torch, which were used at night for fishing.
The edible fruit of lama, called piʻoi, were eaten by early Hawaiians. 
Lama wood was used as medicine. Huts (pupupu hale) were made in a single day of the wood during the daylight (lama) hours and the sick were placed inside them for curing. [6,9]
Inside a hālau hula was an altar (kuahu) on which a block of lama (Diospyros sandwicensis) was placed. The wood represented the goddess of hula, Laka. [6,9]
The semi-sweet fruit is enjoyed by hikers and backpackers today.
The beautiful dark wood is occasionally used in modern wood working today. 
 "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 34, 41.
 "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 38.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diospyros (accessed 8/24/09)
 "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, page 235.
 "Place Names of Hawaii" by Mary K. Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert, & Esther T. Mookini, page 87.
 "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, pages 67-68, 117.
 "Growing Native Hawaiian Plants" by Heidi Bornhorst, pages 66, 67.
 http://www.koawoodhawaii.com/2.html [Accessed 2/16/11]
 "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 674.
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