Euphorbia celastroides var. lorifolia

leaf Main Plant Information






  • lorifolia

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Koko
  • Kōkōmālei
  • ʻAkoko
  • ʻEkoko


  • Chamaesyce celastroides var. lorifolia
  • Chamaesyce celastroides var. mauiensis
  • Chamaesyce celastroides var. odonatoides
  • Chamaesyce lorifolia
  • Euphorbia celastroides var. mauiensis
  • Euphorbia celastroides var. odonatoides
  • Euphorbia lorifolia
  • Euphorbia multiformis var. lorifolia

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

At Risk

Plant Form / Growth Habit

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

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Additional Fragrance Information

The pungent flowers of ʻakoko have been described as smelling like bad breath. [Kim Starr, United States Geological Survey-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White
  • Red
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Small yellowish, greenish, and red flowers.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • November

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The leaves are 2 to over 3 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

ʻAkoko are known to attract ants which can be treated with ant baits. The plants also attracts root mealy bug which should be treated with a systemic pesticide or horticultural oil.

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

When plant is well established water once a month a less during dry months.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun


  • Drought

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui

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

Found in coastal areas, graasy hill tops, and mesic forests on Lānaʻi where it is now rare and on Maui where it is placed in the vulnerable status. [6]

Though a large species, it is apparently not as tall in height or as wide in diameter as another native tree ʻakoko (Chamaesyce olowaluana). [1]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻAkoko belong to the Spurge or Euphorbia family (Euphorbiaceae). The genus has recently been chnged from Chamaesyce to Euphorbia.

There are seventeen native species of ʻakoko (Euphorbia 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 Euphorbia degeneri to Euphorbia olowaluana, which are nearly 30-foot trees--perhaps the tallest in the entire genus of 250 species worldwide!

Another native member in Euphorbiaceae is poʻolā (Claoxylon sandwicense). Some well known non-native relatives are the Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis), kukui (Aleurites moluccana), poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), cassava (Manihot esculenta), and the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) from which latex comes.


The former generic name Chamaesyce 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.

The current genus is Euphorbia, and is classically supposed to have been named for Euphorbus, a physician to the king of Mauretania in the first century A.D. (C.E.).

The specific epithet celastroides means "resembling Celastrus," a genus of shrubs and vines commonly known as staff vines, staff trees or bittersweet.

The varietal name, lorifolia, strap-leaf, in reference to the long leaves of this ʻakoko.

Hawaiian Names:

The name ʻakoko comes from the Hawaiian word koko for blood referring to the blood-colored seed capsules. [2]

One reference source spells it as ʻākoko. [5] But the name is actually spelled without a kahakō over the "a." [8]

Background Information

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.

George C. Munro (1866-1963), botanist and ornithologist, notes in his journals that Lānaʻi once had a unique forest of these treelike ʻakoko was reduced to but a few struggling trees due to uncontrolled eating habits of free range domesticated goats or intentionally burned for charcoal. He notes the following in his journals: "Within the living memory of three persons when I was on Lānaʻi, ...the plain below Lānaʻi City, the Miki lands, and throughout the Pālāwai Basin, all now growing pineapples, composed of a continous forest of this variety of this species of Euphorbia known to the natives as ʻakoko." Munro continues: "Awili Shaw, Naimu, and Henry Gibson, who were all brought up on Lānaʻi, could remember when the ʻakoko forest was intact." [1]

ʻAkoko (Chamaesyce celastroides var. lorifolia) is important for native animal and plant species. Hawaiʻi's only native bees (Hylaeus spp.) use this species as a important food and nesting source. An extinct honeycreeper, the Lānaʻi hookbill (Dysmorodrepanis munroi), searched  for small snails among foliage of ōpuhe (Urera glabra) and perhaps this species of ʻakoko. [1,5,6]

It is difficult to believe that these magnificent trees are related to the ubiquitous, pesky weed spurges ever present in our yards. Far from being weedy, however, these rare spurges are in real danger of disappearing altogether.

Early Hawaiian Use

The wood of this ʻakoko was used as firewood, the leaves medicinally, and the latex used as an ingredient in canoe paint. [7]

Modern Use

Early botanists Joseph Rock and George Munro both relate of experiments conducted with the latex from this ʻakoko (Chamaesyce celastroides var. lorifolia). [3] Rock states: "However, even if the rubber were not of superior grade, the amount of resin in the latex and the easy harvesting possible on Lānaʻi might have made it profitable." [1,3]

A similar event took place on Hawaiʻi Island on Puʻu Waʻawaʻa, North Kona with another tree ʻakoko (Chamaesyce olowaluana). [4]

Today, though the vast ʻakoko forests are gone, a few trees still remain on Lānaʻi and Maui, but now a faint reminder of times past.

Because of this and other reasons both of the above ʻakoko have now placed in the Vulnerable status.

Additional References

[1] "The Story of Lānaʻi" by George C. Munro, pages 64, 67-68, 212-213.
[2] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice Krauss, page 138.
[3] "The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands" by J.F. Rock, pages 50, 261.

[4] "Euphorbia lorifolia, a Possible Source of Rubber and Chicle" by William McGeorge & W. A. Anderson, page 98.

[5] "The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae" by H. Douglas Pratt, pages 130, 217-218.

[6] "Photosynthesis in Tree Form Euphorbia Species from Hawaiian Rainforest Sites" by Robert Pearcy & John Troughton, page 1055.

[7] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, page 21.

[8] [Accessed on 10/21/11]

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