Dodonaea viscosa

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kūmakani
  • ʻAʻaliʻi
  • ʻAʻaliʻi kū ma kua
  • ʻAʻaliʻi kū makani

Hawaiian Names

  • Aalii
  • Aalii ku ma kua
  • Aalii ku makani
  • Kumakani

Common Names

  • Hawaiian hopseed bush
  • Hopbush
  • Hopseed
  • Sticky hop bush
  • Woolly-fruited hopseed


  • Dodonaea arborescens var. spatulata
  • Dodonaea eriocarpa
  • Dodonaea sandwicensis
  • Dodonaea spatulata
  • Dodonaea stenoptera
  • Dodonaea x fauriei

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Partially Woody / Shrub-like
  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Mature Size, Width

ʻAʻaliʻi has a 5 to 15 foot spread and a height to width ratio of 1:5:1.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Erosion Control
  • Ground Cover
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant
  • Trellis or Fence Climber

Additional Landscape Use Information

An excellent plant for dry, windy, full sun areas where few other plants will survive. Low or prostrate varieties can be used as a groundcover.

The name ʻaʻaliʻi kū makani means "standing in wind," suggests the plants ability to grow in strong winds. ʻAʻaliʻi kū ma kua means "ʻaʻaliʻi standing in back." [2]

Companion Plants:

Outplant with other native plants such as ʻilima, ʻākia, kupukupu, pōhinahina, ʻilieʻe, ʻūlei, kuluʻī, lonomea and mānele.


* These plants can be found on this website using the "Browse Plants" feature found at the top. Enter plant names without diacritics.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White
  • Red
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Diminutive greenish or yellowish white to reddish flowers form in clusters at leaf tips.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

ʻAʻaliʻi can be male or female on separate plants (dioecious) or both male and female on the same plant (monoecious). The male and female flowers are diminutive. The fruits (capsules), however, are showy and are the attractive feature of ʻaʻaliʻi. The seed capsules, only produced from female flowers, can be greenish-white, straw yellow, pink, orangish, light red, brick red, or reddish-purple, and often a mottled combination of colors.

Natural habitats such as Lānaʻi (Kānepuʻu) and some of the dry forests on Hawaiʻi Island produce some very nice low growing forms with abundant tight clusters of brilliantly colored capsules. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves range from under an inch to over 5 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

ʻAʻaliʻi leaves can be green to green mottled with red.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Mealy bugs can be a problem if not controlled.

Black twig borers can be a major threat as well. Watch for dying "twigs" or ends of the branches. Treat with an insecticide containing imidacloprid as needed.

leaf Growth Requirements


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]

Pruning Information

ʻAʻaliʻi prunes well and is very forgiving of pruning errors. Pruning encourages thicker hedges but do not prune back into old wood. Prune after fruiting to shape or keep short. ʻAʻaliʻi can be shaped into a small tree, topiary, hedge or espalier (on a trellis).

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Moderate to light. [16] Greatly reduce watering once plants are well established.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

ʻAʻaliʻi becomes more tree like or leggy when grown shade with too much moisture. They prefer full sun, branching and flowering more profusely with good sunlight.

Spacing Information

Depending on variety and source, plants should be spaced 6 to 8 ft. apart to show case plants. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi] Otherwise, it can be planted in close proximity to other plants. [16]

As is the case with many native Hawaiian plants, ʻaʻaliʻi may perform differently under cultivation than in their natural habitat.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic


Although ʻaʻaliʻi is drought tolerant, it will shed leaves and become unattractive in periods of extreme drought. [16] These shrubs have a moderate salt tolerance.

Male ʻaʻaliʻi do not produce the characteristic seed capsules which are a prominent feature in landscapes or for lei production.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Kahoʻolawe
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This shrub is found in a variety of habitats such as coastal dunes, lava fields, dry, mesic and wet forests, and from low elevations to subalpine shrubland (10-7700 feet).

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The genus Dodonaea belongs to the Soapberry family (Sapindaceae) with some 70 species, 61 of which occur in Australia with 59 endemic species. Dodonaea viscosa is the only Pantropic species and found tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions of United States (California, Arizona, Florida) to South America, Africa, southern Asia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, and some Pacific islands, including the Hawaiian Islands.

Other native Hawaiian members include two endemics māhoe (Alectryon macrococcus), and lonomea (Sapindus oahuensis), and the indigenous mānele (Sapindus saponaria).


The generic name Dodonaea is named after the Flemish physician and botanist Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585), who was later a professor of medicine at Leiden, The Netherlands.

The specific epithet viscosa is derived from viscous or sticky.

Hawaiians Names:

ʻAʻaliʻi kū ma kua (meaning ʻaʻaliʻi standing in back), ʻaʻaliʻi kū makani (ʻaʻaliʻi standing in the wind), and kūmakani (windbreak or wind resisting).

Background Information

ʻAʻaliʻi is an extremely variable plant with many habit, leaf and capsule forms and colors. One can hardly say that there is a typical ʻaʻaliʻi. Three intergrading Dodonaea entities may be recognized in the Hawaiian Islands, possibly to a species level:

(1) D. sandwicensis, found occuring in wet motane sites, have mostly 2-winged capsules. [7] This plant is the only one of the three found in wet areas. Apparently endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

(2) D. viscosa [syn. D. angustifolia, D. eriocarpa, D. spaulata], widespread and pan-tropic but in the Hawaiian Islands this plant is primarily found in open, mesic to dry sites on all the Main Islands. These plants have 3-4-winged capsules that are fuzzy and turgid (swollen). [6]

(3) D. stenoptera, which occur primarily on Molokaʻi and scattered sites on Oʻahu (tree-sized), have the largest capsules of the three species and are strongly inflated, 4-winged and wings are short, almost wingless. Apparently these plants are/were found on Lānaʻi and West Maui (two records). [Joel Lau, Botanist]

This is a favorite food plant for the Blackburn butterly (Udara blackburni) caterpillars, one of two endemic Hawaiian butterflies, as well as the striking gem-like koa bug (Coleotichus blackburniae). [8]

The seeds were a food source for the Hopue or Greater koa-finch (Rhodacanthus palmeri). This beautiful bright orange and green honeycreeper was a native of the koa forests of the Kona and Kaʻū districts of Hawaiʻi Island, but is now extinct. [12]

ʻAʻaliʻi is one of the few native Hawaiian plants that can endure fires and is a pioneer plant, that is, seeds survive and plants will return to the burned areas. [8]

Early Hawaiian Use

Early Hawaiians had many uses for ʻaʻliʻi. The yellowish-brown hard wood, sometimes with black heartwood, was used for canoe building, weapons, agricultural tools, rafters, posts and thatching posts or purlins in house (hale) construction. [1,8,10,11,13]

Regarding the resiliency of these tough shrubs, an ancient boasts of the people of Kaʻū states: "He ʻaʻaliʻi au; ʻaʻohe makani e hina ai" which means "I am an ʻaʻaliʻi shrub; no wind can push me over," or in other words, "I can hold my own even in the face of difficulties." [2,3,9]


The seeds were boiled to make red dye for decorating kapa (tapa) cloth. [1,10]


The very hard, durable wood is heavy and sinks in water and so was used for bait sticks. From a canoe, the bait sticks were lowered into water at a depth or twenty or so feet to attract fish or heʻe (octopus), which then could be lured to the surface and caught with a waiting net. ʻAʻaliʻi was also fashioned into light fishing spears, especially for heʻe. [1,8,13]


Fruits (capsules) and leaves were used in lei making by early Hawaiians. [1,4,9]


The crushed leaves were used as a topical medicine for relief from irritating rashes and contagious diseases such as ringworm or "haole rot" and staff infections. [2,5,8,10]

Like hops, flowers were used to impart a bitter flavor, and also used as a tonic. [13]

For a treatment called holoina, ‘a‘ali‘i leaves are mixed with ala‘a (Planchonella sandwicensis) bark and puakala ku kula (Argemone glauca) root then ground and strained. The liquid is heated in a steam bath, which is followed with a purge of ground pilikai (Stictocardia tiliifolia) fruit to treat skin rash (‘ōhune or mane‘o). [15]

Modern Use

Capsules and leaves are still used in lei making as they were with early Hawaiians. [4,9]

Used in modern times throughout the world as a poultice or decocted for topical use only. This plant is mildly toxic containing small amounts of cyanogenic toxins and plant materials can cause cyanide poisoning if ingested. [8]

ʻAʻaliʻi wood is repotedly termite resistant. [8]

The cultivar 'Purpurea,' with purple foliage, is widely used as a shrub on the mainland USA.

Use Outside of the Hawaiian Islands:

It would not be possible to list all the cultural uses of this plant here. But some examples of the diverse uses are noted below.

The wood has been used by many cultures for tool handles, walking sticks, and carving implements. The wood is also good for firewood as it ignites easily. [14]

New Zealand's Māori used the wood to fashion clubs and other weapons. The Māori name akeake means "forever and ever."

Seri, an indigenous people of Sonora, Mexico, use the plants medicinally.

On New Guinea, the Yali highlanders use the wood for house construction and firewood, and apply heated leaves as plasters for wounds. [17]

The wood is also used for house construction in Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Brazil. [17]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 45, 56, 65.

[2] Hawaiian Encyclopedia [accessed 2/17/10]

[3] Hawaiian Dictionaries [accessed 2/17/10]

[4] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 2.

[5] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value" by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 3.

[6] "Flora Hawaiiensis" by Otto Degener, Book 5, Family: 210.

[7] "Flora Hawaiiensis" by Otto Degener, Book 6, Family: 210.

[8] "Medicine at Your Feet: Healing Plants of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume 1," by David Bruce Leonard, page 93-95.

[9] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 537.

[10] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, pages 14, 16.

[11] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, page 68.

[12] "The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae" by H. Douglas Pratt, page 209.

[13] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 204.

[14] "Paradisus: Hawaiian Plant Watercolors" by Geraldine King Tam and David J. Mabberley, page 30.

[15] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" [Accessed 1/24/12]

[16] "How to Plant a Native Hawaiian Garden" by Kenneth M. Nagata, page"ʻAʻaliʻi."

[17] Kew Gardens [Accessed on 11/20/13]



leafMore Links

Plant Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Back to Plant List

Plant List

Other Nursery Profiles for Dodonaea viscosa