Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. punaluuensis

leaf Main Plant Information






  • punaluuensis

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Aloalo
  • Hau hele
  • Kokiʻo kea
  • Kokiʻo keʻokeʻo
  • Pāmakani

Hawaiian Names

  • Aloalo
  • Hau hele
  • Kokio kea
  • Kokio keokeo
  • Pamakani

Common Names

  • Oʻahu white hibiscus
  • Punaluʻu hibiscus
  • Punaluʻu white hibiscus


  • Hibiscus punaluuensis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Mature Size, Width

15 to 20 or more feet. [2]

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

This can be a very large tree-ilke shrub with very large leaves and flowers. As with other hibiscuses, they can be trimmed back.

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Additional Fragrance Information

The subspecies punaluuensis has one of the strongest, detectable frangrances among Hibiscus arnottianus. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi] However, this appears to vary from plant to plant or perhaps location to location, and some plants may be more fragrant than others.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Red
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

This subspecies has large white flowers with slightly ruffled petals and a pink to red center or staminal (stamen) column. [2] The edges of the petals may have some pinkish tinge.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The leaves of subspecies punaluuensis are usually much larger than the other two subspecies, to 12" long!

Leaf Colors

  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Plants are prone to sucking insects such as aphids, scale and mealy bugs. Chinese rose beetles can be removed by hand.

leaf Growth Requirements


Fertilize kokiʻo keʻokeʻo using a 2-1-3 or 2-.5-3 ratio with minor elements. It is important to keep the phosphorus low because it tends to accumulate and prevents the nitrogen and potassium from working. Minor elements such as magnesium and iron are also important to maintain healthy green foliage. [1]

Pruning Information

Prune as required, but generally not good to prune too heavily.

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Prefers filtered sunlight in most well drained soils but will tolerate full sun and drier conditions. [2]


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray


  • Cinder
  • Organic


The Punaluʻu white hibiscus is partially salt-air tolerant. [4]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. punaluuensis is endemic to the gulch bottoms in mesic to wet forests in the Koʻolau Mountains (Kaipapaʻu to Waiāhole), Oʻahu. On the windward (eastern) side of the mountain range it occurs in the northern and central parts of the mountain range from Kaluanui to Waikāne. On the leeward (western) side it ranges from Kaukonahua Gulch in the central part of the mountain range to the western side of Mānoa Valley in the southeastern part of the mountain range. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. punaluuensis is a more robust plant than the other the two subspecies, with larger, thicker leaves and flowers.

There are perhaps as many as 300 species worldwide in the genus Hibiscus. There are six native species of hibiscuses in Hawaiʻi and all but one are endemic.

The two native Hawaiian white hibiscuses, Hibiscus arnottianus and H. waimeae, are the only known species of hibiscuses in the world known to have fragrant flowers!


The generic name Hibiscus is derived from hibiscos, the Greek name for mallow. 

The specific and subspecific epithets are named in behalf of George Walker Arnott (1799-1868), Scottish botanist, traveler, collector and director of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. [6]

The subspecies punuluuensis is named for the area where it is found, Punaluʻu, Koʻolau Mountains on Oʻahu.

Hawaiian Names:

Aloalo is the name given for hibiscus in general.

Hau is an introduced hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus), perhaps by early Hawaiians. Hau hele literally means "traveling hau."

Kokiʻo kea and Kokiʻo keʻokeʻo literally mean "white kokiʻo" and "white, white [clear white] kokiʻo," respectively.

Pāmakani is a name given to this species of hibiscus and also to a native violet (Viola chamissoniana).

Background Information

Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. punaluuensis grows to be the tallest all the native hibiscuses. [7]

New DNA evidence suggests that Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. punaluuensis may now be given full species status as Hibiscus punaluuensis. [10]

Early Hawaiian Use


Plants were cultivated "for the sake of their flowers." [5] Both the native red and white hibiscuses were grown near their houses for their flowers. [9]


The astounding publication "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" features the subspecies punaluuensis as its subject for lei. [5]


Used for unstated medicinal purposes. [5]

Modern Use

Hibiscus arnottianus is a source of numerous horticultural variaties. The flowers last two days, instead of one. [8] The only recognized cultivar is known as cv. 'Punaluʻu White'. [3]

Additional References

[1] Jill Coryell, Hibiscus Lady
[2] Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens [Accessed 8/4/08]
[3] [Accesed 10/1/08]

[4] "Small Trees for Tropical Landscape" by Fred D. Rauch & Paul R. Weissich, page 60.

[5] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 46.

[6] "Hibiscus: Hardy and Tropical Plants for the Garden" by Barabara Perry Lawton, page 105.

[7] "Flora Hawaiiensis" by Otto Degener, Book 5, Family: 221.

[8] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 216.

[9] "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, page 233.

[10] "Hawaii Landscape" Sept./Oct. 2013 issue, pages 16-17.



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