Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana

leaf Main Plant Information






  • molokaiana

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Aloalo
  • Maʻo hau hele

Hawaiian Names

  • Aloalo
  • Mao hau hele

Common Names

  • Native yellow hibiscus


  • Hibiscus brackenridgei subsp. molokaianus

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10

Mature Size, Width

Maʻo hau hele is known to have an 8- to 10-foot spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Hedges
  • 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 and root rot. The sharp prickles around the base of the flowers can be a deterrent to picking the striking yellow flowers.

The subspecies molokaiana has become a favorite in the landscape because of its delicate habit and relative ease of culture.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Maʻo hau hele produces bright yellow flowers with varying amounts of red or maroon in the center.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic
  • Spring
  • Winter
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Maʻo hau hele is typically a winter/spring flowering hibiscus, blooming from early February through late May. It can also bloom intermittently at other times of the year. [2]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves range from 2 to 4 inches long and are deeply lobed or maple leaf-shaped.

Leaf Colors

  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are grayish green and have a slightly rough texture, with a small faint mauve or pinkish center (piko) on the leaf and petiole, adding a hint of color to otherwise plain leaves.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Mealy bugs can congregate in growing tips, causing the branch tips to deform on maʻo hau hele. Ants and stress are the main causes of 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.

leaf Growth Requirements


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. [1]

Pruning Information

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.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Do not over water maʻo hau hele.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Maʻo hau hele does best in full sun.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Heat


  • Cinder


In general, because of a shallow root system, maʻo hau hele is prone to toppling in strong winds. However, this subspecies seems to do fine in windy locations if kept to about 4 or 5 feet tall and/or provided with wind breaks such as a low rock wall or other native shrubs (e.g. maʻo, ʻaʻaliʻi). [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This subspecies of maʻo hau hele was once thought to be extinct, and probably is on Molokaʻi. However, it was recently re-discovered on Oʻahu in dry shrublands at an elevation between 105 to 1,607 feet. [3]

Regarding this subspecies, Hawaiʻi Botanist Joel Lau notes:

"Plants discovered in Mākua Valley in the northwestern Waiʻanae Mountains, Oʻahu in 2000 and a few years later in Keaʻau Valley are similar to the plants of H. brackenridgei subsp. molokaiana from West Molokaʻi. The Molokaʻi plants, which are not known to be extant, were apparently more prostrate than the Oʻahu plants judging from a photograph taken of a Molokaʻi plant by Joseph Rock."

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The large Mallow family Malvaceae contains some 2,300 species, with notables such as okra, cacao, durian, baobab, kenaf, and cotton. [6]

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. [7]

The subspecies molokaiana is named after the island of its discovery, Molokaʻi, but ironically is now extinct there; extant on Oʻahu.

Hawaiian Names:

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."

Early Hawaiian Use

Maʻo hau hele was planted for an ornamental use. [5]

Modern 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. [4]

Additional References

[1] Jill Coryell, Hibiscus Lady
[2] "Recovery Plant for the Multi-Island Plants" by USFWS, page 88.
[3], page 53 [Accessed 8/2/08]

[4] Hawaiian Encyclopedia [Accessed 8/6/08]

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

[6] [Accessed 10/14/09]

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



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