Euphorbia celastroides

leaf Main Plant Information






  • amplectens
  • celastroides
  • hanapepensis
  • kaenana
  • laehiensis
  • lorifolia
  • stokesii
  • tomentella

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Koko
  • Kōkōmālei
  • ʻAkoko
  • ʻEkoko

Hawaiian Names

  • Akoko
  • Ekoko
  • Koko
  • Kokomalei


  • Chamaesyce celastroides
  • Chamaesyce multiformis
  • Euphorbia multiformis
  • Euphorbia oahuensis
  • Euphorbia rivularis
  • Euphorbia stokesii

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading
  • 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

This species of ʻakoko (Chamaesyce celastroides) is an exteremely variable plant ranging from low prostrate shrubs to small trees over 25 feet tall.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Not often seen in cultivation, this is a showy species and relatively easy to grow. At least five of the celastroides varieties are now in cultivation.

They can be used as accent or potted plants and should be grown in very well drained soil in full sun. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Brownish
  • Greenish-White

Additional Flower Color Information

The flowers are diminutive and not attractive.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

While the flowers are not showy, the bright pinkish to red fruits can be uniquely appealing en masse.

The variety kaenana has been observed to flower and fruit throughout the year perhaps in response to precipitation. [5]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The eight varieties of the species celastroides are divided into two leaf types, the glabrous (smooth without hairs) and the pubscent (with hairs).

Those with glabrous leaves are: var. celastroides, var. hanapepensis, var. kaenana, and var. stokesii.

Those with pubescent leaves are: var. amplectens, var. laehiensis, var. lorifolia, and var. tomentella.

The variety kaenana puts out leaves with winter rains but drop off during the summer. [7]

Leaf Colors

  • Gray / Silverish
  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Red spider mites and mealybugs can be problematic if not controlled.

leaf Growth Requirements

Pruning Information

Generally not necessary to prune plants except to remove dead branches and leaves for a cleaner appearance in the landscape. A milky, sticky latex naturally oozes from wounds.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

The eight varieties of this species are found in coastal to mesic forests and do best with minimal amounts of watering.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

This ʻakoko performs best in full sun, with some varieties tolerating partial sun. (See individual varieties)

Spacing Information

Spacing the plants will vary with each variety.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Coral


Salt tolerances applies to the coastal varieties only and is not known for the upland varieties.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

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

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)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)

Additional Habitat Information

The eight varieties are of Chamaesyce celastroides are found from coastal sites to high elevation (over 5900 feet) mesic forests:

  • var. amplectens is a variable upland plant found on all the main islands.
  • var. celastroides is from low elevations on Nīhoa, Niʻihau, and Kauaʻi. On Nīhoa, this variety forms dense stands alone or mixed with pōpolo (Solanum nelsonii) and ʻilima (Sida fallax). The majority of the seabird Christmas shearwater (Puffinus nativitatis) that breed on Nīhoa, nest in ʻakoko thickets or the tufts of the grass kāwelu (Eragrostis variabilis). [6]
  • var. hanapepensis is from high elevations on Kauaʻi.
  • var. kaenana is a rare and endangered beach plant found among the boulders and restricted to Kaʻena, Oʻahu. [7]
  • var. laehiensis is an endangered ʻakoko found at low elevations on Lānaʻi and East Maui near Manawainui.
  • var. lorifolia, given a vulernable status, is a small tree found at high elevations on Maui and rare on Lānaʻi.
  • var. stokesii is a beach form from Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, and Kahoʻolawe. This variety is easily seen growing with other native plants in the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kīlauea Lighthouse on Kauaʻi.
  • var. tomentella is from the Waiʻanae Mts., Oʻahu and presumed extinct.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻAkoko (Chamaesyce) belong to the Spurge or Euphorbia family (Euphorbiaceae).

There are sixteen native species of ʻakoko (Chamaesyce spp.)--all of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. A number of ʻakoko are either vulnerable, rare or endangered, with two considered extinct. Several have beautiful foliage and range in size from very prostrate sub-shrubs such as Chamaesyce degeneri to Chamaesyce olowaluana, which are nearly 30-foot trees--perhaps the tallest in the entire genus of 250 species worldwide!

The two other native members in Euphorbiaceae are poʻolā (Claoxylon sandwicense) and a native tree euphorbia (Euphorbia haeleeleana). Some well known non-native relatives are the Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis), kukui (Aleurites moluccana), poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), cassava (Manihot esculenta), and the Para rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) from which latex comes.

Leaves of some species turn red when the plant is overly stressed. The name ʻakoko comes from the Hawaiian word "koko" for blood. They get their name from the red, or blood-colored, seed capsules appearing as drops of blood on the plant. [1]

This ʻakoko (Chamaesyce celastroides) is the by far the most variable and widespread of all the Hawaiian Chamaesyce. The erect capsules (fruits) distinguish them from other species, except C. herbstii and C. rockii, which have distinctively larger fruits.


Name is derived from the Greek chamai, on the ground, and sykon, fig, perhaps in reference to the low habit of most species and the fig-like apperance of the capsules.

Early Hawaiian Use

A latex from ʻakoko (Chamaesyce celastroides var. lorifolia) mixed with 'ōhā (Clermontia spp.) was used to treat asthmatics or deep puncture wounds. [3,4]

Additionally, the sticky latex 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). [1]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice Krauss, page 138.

[2] "Systematic Botany Monographs, Volume 32, Systematics of Clermontia (Campanulaceae-Lobelioideae)" by Thomas Lammers, pages 5, 6, 10-11, 24-30.

[3] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value" by D. M. Kaaiakamanu & J. K. Akina, page 30.
[4] "Native American Ethnobotany" by Daniel E. Moerman. Published by Timber Press, 1998, page 170.

[5] Dept. of the Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Register Vol. 68, No. 116 (June 17, 2003), page 35952.

[6] "Natural History of Nihoa and Necker Islands" by Neal L. Evenhuis, page 58.

[7] "Plants and Animals of Kaʻena" [Accessed12/23/09]

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