Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. mokuleianus
Hawaiian Names with Diacritics
- Maʻo hau hele
- Mao hau hele
- Mokulēʻia rosemallow
- Native yellow hibiscus
Endangered Species Status
Plant Form / Growth Habit
Mature Size, Height (in feet)
- Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
- Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
- Tree, Small, 15 to 30
Mature Size, Width
This tree-like maʻo hau hele has a spread of 8 feet or more.
Long lived (Greater than 5 years)
- Specimen Plant
Additional Landscape Use Information
Maʻo hau hele does very well in sunny areas such as south and west facing locations in the landscape. Over watering can cause powdery mildew on leaves as well as stem and root rot. The sharp prickles around the base of the flowers can be a deterrent to picking the striking yellow flowers. This subspecies is the most tree-like having very thick trunks.
Source of Fragrance
- No Fragrance
Plant Produces Flowers
Additional Flower Color Information
The bright yellow flowers have red or maroon centers.
Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information
Maʻo hau hele is typically a winter/spring flowering hibiscus, blooming from early February through late May. It also may bloom intermittently at other times of the year. 
Additional Plant Texture Information
Leaves have a slightly rough, sand paper-like texture.
- Dark Green
- Gray / Silverish
Additional Leaf Color Information
This maʻo hau hele has leaves that are grayish green to dark green.
Additional Pest & Disease Information
Mealy bugs can congregate in growing tips and deform the branch tips of maʻo hau hele. Ants and stress are the main causes for mealy bug infestations. Mealy bugs, white flies, spider mites and aphids are common pests. Root knot nematodes can be controlled organically by planting African marigolds in the area. Overwatering can cause powdery mildew on leaves and root rot. Chinese rose beetles can chew holes in the leaves.
Maʻo hau hele has very little fertilizer requirements.
However, if you do fertilize maʻo hau hele use 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. 
Plants can be pruned back after flowering. Young plants should be pruned to encourage branching. Do not prune in winter and spring when it is flowering. Maʻo hau hele has a weak root system and can topple over if top heavy, pruning plant about 1/3 can prevent this.
Additional Water Information
Do not over water maʻo hau hele.
Soil must be well drained
- Full sun
May topple over in strong winds.
Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)
- 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
Additional Habitat Information
This mao hau hele is rare and very localized in dry forests and shrubland in the northern Waiʻanae Mts., Oʻahu in three populations:
1. Waialua population (Kihakapu, Palikea, Kaimuhole, and Kaumoku Nui) single trunked trees growing from 13-23 ft. tall but reportedly to 39 ft. Stems are densely armed with spines. Flowers yellow with dark red streaks or splotches at the center. In cultivation, these begin to flower from six months to two years old. These are the fastest growers of the subspecies in cultivation.
2. Kealia population (including Haili to Kawaiu) are shorter multi-branching limbs. Stems are moderate spiney to completely spineless. Flowers yellow with dark red streaks or splotches at the center. These are the slowest growers of the subspecies in cultivation.
3. Mākua Valley/Molokaʻi population* is very different from the other two populations. This is a scrambling shrub wider than it is tall. Flowers are yellow with a solid dark red center. Most of these begin to flower at less than six months old in cultivation. 
A devastating fire in August 2007 destroyed over 95% of the wild plants and impacting 85% of this species on Oʻahu. 
* The recently discovered Mākua population morphologically match H. brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana known only from West Molokaʻi and now considered extinct there. 
The large Mallow family Malvaceae contains some 2,300 species, with notables such as okra, cacao, durian, baobab, kenaf, and cotton. 
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.
Maʻo hau hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei) has three subspecies. All are federally listed as an endangered species.
The generic name Hibiscus is derived from hibiscos, the Greek name for mallow.
The specific epithet brackenridgei is named after William Dunlop Brackenridge (1810-1893), Scottish-American horticulturist and superintendent of the National Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. 
The subspecies is mokuleianus is named for Mokulēʻia, an area in the northern Waiʻanae Mountains, Oʻahu where this subspecies is found.
Aloalo is the name given for hibiscus in general.
Hau is an introduced hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus), perhaps by early Hawaiians. Hele means "traveling." Maʻo means green, but the yellow flowers turn green when drying. Thus, maʻo hau hele literally means "green traveling hau."
Native and introduced Sphinx (hawk) moths visit the flowers that remain open till about noon. 
Early Hawaiian Use
Maʻo hau hele was planted for an ornamental use. 
When the hibiscus was named as the official flower for the Territory of Hawaiʻi by the Legislature in 1923, it was not specified as to any particular hibiscus species or variety. This lead to some confusion. In time many considered the Native red (Hibiscus kokio) or the Chinese red hibiscuses as the state flower. In 1988, however, Hawaii's State Legislature resolved the issue by declaring the Native yellow hibiscus or Maʻo hau hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei), as the official flower of the State of Hawaiʻi. 
 Jill Coryell, Hibiscus Lady http://www.hibiscusladyhawaii.com/
 "Recovery Plant for the Multi-Island Plants" by USFWS, page 88
 "Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Military Training Activities at Makua Military Reservation," August 2008, 3-219.
 "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, page 233.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvaceae [10/14/09]
 Hawaiian Encyclopedia http://www.hawaiianencyclopedia.com/island-emblems.asp [Accessed 8/6/08]
 "Implementation Plan for Mākua Military Reservation, Island of Oahu 16.17 Taxon Summary: Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. mokuleianus."
 "Hibiscus: Hardy and Tropical Plants for the Garden" by Barbara Perry Lawton, page 105.
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