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Euphorbia degeneri

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Euphorbia

Species

degeneri

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Koko
  • Kōkōmālei
  • ʻAkoko
  • ʻEkoko

Hawaiian Names

  • Akoko
  • Ekoko
  • Koko
  • Kokomalei

Common Names

  • Beach sandmat

Synonyms

  • Anisophyllum cordatum
  • Chamaesyce cordatum
  • Chamaesyce degeneri
  • Euphorbia cordata

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Dwarf, Less than 2
  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6

Mature Size, Width

This ʻakoko commonly has a spread of 8 to 16 inches, but can also have a spread 2 feet in width.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover

Additional Landscape Use Information

While there are number very troublesome garden spurges in the same genus Chamaesyce, the native ʻakoko does not become such ubiquitous pests in the landscape.

ʻAkoko are great additions to the native garden and fill in those areas in the landscape needing another plant texture.

This ʻakoko (C. degeneri) does well in full sun or windy, open areas requiring little watering. As a potted or container plant, use clay, terra cotta or cement pots and incorporate generous amounts of sand, coral rubble, and/or black cinder for good drainage. It has also been suggested to add in a small amount of red clay.

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

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Green

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Leaf Colors

  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The leaves have a red tinge.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

ʻAkoko is prone to ants, mealybugs, whiteflies, and scale.

leaf Growth Requirements

Pruning Information

None necessary.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

When plant is well established, water once a month or less during dry months. Allow plant to dry between waterings.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Plant prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Spacing Information

ʻAkoko should be spaced 10 to 16 inches apart.

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat

Soils

  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Coral

Limitations

Do not overwater these drought tolerant, or xeric, plants.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

A true coastal plant found in the strand vegetation.

On Oʻahu, the only offshore islet it is found on is Kekepa. [3]

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.

Etymology

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 degeneri is named for the botanist(s) Degener, Otto and/or Isa, husband & wife.

Hawaiian Names:

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. [1,2]

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.

Additional References

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

[2] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 516.

[3] Offshore Islet Restoration Committee http://hawaiioirc.org/OIRC-ISLETS.htm [Accessed 8/7/13]

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