Eugenia koolauensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Nīoi

Hawaiian Names

  • Nioi

Common Names

  • Koʻolau eugenia


  • Eugenia molokaiana

Did You Know…?

Nīoi is very closely related to the delicious introduced Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora) with its bright red pumpkin shaped fruits. The round red to orange fruits of nīoi are also palatable ranging from bland to mildly sweet.

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

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, Dwarf, Less than 15
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30

Mature Size, Width

From about 6 to over 20 ft. tall, with a spread of ten feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Nīoi is an attractive native shrub that can be used as a shrub or small tree in the urban Hawaiian landscape. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The small white flowers are similar to guava and strawberrry guava.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

In cultivation, nīoi may begin flowering in late October and continuously throughout the year with perhaps a very slight break in September or early October. However, nīoi may actually prove to be a year round bloomer and fruiter. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Nīoi also appears to be fickle with blooming and fruiting. Some years it will produce an adundance of both flowers and fruits; other years very little of either. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

There are from 1 to 3 or 4, rarely 5, mature seeds per fruit. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Non-native birds, such as Red-vented and Red-whiskered bulbuls (Pycnontus spp.), relish nīoi. So, keep a close eye on the fruits as they ripen if you plan to collect nīoi seed by protecting them from these birds. Bird netting works good. It has also been observed that bulbuls often eat the fruits on site, dropping the seeds to the ground. Look for clean tannish-white pea-sized or split pea-shaped seeds in the debris beneath the nīoi. You may be pleasantly surprised! [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green
  • Red

Additional Leaf Color Information

The terminal, or new, leaves are reddish-green, fuzzy and cupped.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Black twig borer. Trim off pieces infested by black twig borer, wrap in a plastic bag, and dispose of or destroy right away.

Nīoi is highly susceptible to attacks by the bright yellow ʻōhiʻa, or guava, rust (Puccinia psidii) especially in wet environments or during the rainy season. It is usually a seasonal pest. But this aggressive rust can be a serious problem during the wetter periods if action is not taken right away. At the first sign of ʻōhiʻa rust, infected material can be carefully trimmed off, bagged securely, and disposed of. An untested suggestion is to put cut pieces in a bottle with a small amount of alcohol before disposing. Then, the plant and any others, including relatives (Metrosideros spp., Syzygium spp.), in the area should be treated with an appropriate fungicide immediately. [2]

Never add trimmings damaged by ʻōhiʻa rust or black twig borer to a compost pile. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Growth Requirements


Foliar feedings monthly or every other month appears to greatly benefit this plant. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist

Additional Water Information

Does best with some moisture and is drought tolerant. However, too much water can be the cause of ōhiʻa rust (Puccinia psidii). (See above "Additional Pest & Disease Information.")

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Additional Lighting Information

Nīoi is best grown in full sun but seems to tolerant some shade.


  • Drought
  • Wind


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Additional Habitat Information

Formerly in dry gulches and slopes from 325 to about 985 feet in the north and south areas of the Koʻolau Mts., Oʻahu, and Mauna Loa, Molokaʻi. Now presumed extinct on Molokaʻi.

Currently extremely rare and now found in the northern Koʻolau Mountains on the north fork of the Kamananui Stream, Waimea Valley and from Pūpūkea-Paumalū, Oʻahu. A small population exist at Palikea and Kaimuhole in the Waiʻanae Mountains, Oʻahu.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Nīoi (Eugenia koolauensis) belongs to the Myrtle family or Myrtaceae with a current figure at over 5,650 species worldwide.

Other native Myrtaceae members include ʻōhiʻa hā (Syzygium sandwicensis) and five endemic species of Metrosideros: lehua ʻāhihi or ʻāhihi (M. tremuloides), lehua papa (M. rugosa), and three known by the name ʻōhiʻa (M. polymorpha, M. macropus and M. waialealae).

Other non-native relatives, many naturalized in Hawaii, are numerous and include myrtle, tea tree, strawberry guava or waiawī ʻulaʻula, pineapple guava or kuawa, allspice, eucalyptus, melaleuca or paper bark, bottlebrush (Callistemon), and Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora)--to name a few. Some of these have become seriously invasives displacing large tracts of native forests with a monoscape of a single species. An extreme example of this is the highly invasive strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) where little vegetation can grow beneath its dense canopy.


Eugenia is named for Prince Eugene (1663-1736) of Savoy, France.

The specific epithet koolauensis is referring to the Koʻolau Mountains on Oʻahu. This addition of -ensis, indicates origin or place.

Hawaiian Name:

The "Hawaiian" or bird chile pepper (Capsicum frutescens) also goes by the name nīoi or nīoi pepa.

Background Information

The small fruits of both species of nīoi (Eugenia koolauensis, E. reinwardtiana) are edible, but the indigenous E. reinwardtiana seems to be more palatable and sweeter than E. koolauensis. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Early Hawaiian Use


Early Hawaiians used the wood for kapa beaters. [1]

Is Nīoi Poisonous?

Nīoi wood was said to be poisonous and was carved into images called kālaipāhoa, literally poison gods or goddesses. The tree is said to grow only at Maunaloa, Molokaʻi where this species once grew, but now extinct there. These images were always in possesions of the ruling chiefs. Shavings from the back of the images were placed in an enemies food to cause death. Two other trees also used were aʻe and ʻohe. [3]

It was only when sorcery was employed were they said to be poisonous. [3]

Today, we know these trees to be harmless.

Modern Use

Nīoi have semi-sweet to bland fruit. Perhaps with selective cultivars nīoi may produce sweeter fruits and thus adding another true native fruit crop along with ʻōhelo (Vaccinium spp.), ʻākala (Rubus spp.), and pōpolo (Solanum americanum). [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 63.

[2] "Hawaii Forest Disease and Pests" [Accessed 2/4/11]

[3] "Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture" by Donald D. Kilolani Mitchell, page 78.



leafMore Links

Back to Plant List

Plant List