Leptecophylla tameiameiae

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kānehoa
  • Kāwaʻu (Lānaʻi and Maui)
  • Maiele
  • Maieli
  • Puakeawe
  • Puakiawe
  • Pukeawe
  • Pūkiawe
  • Pūpūkiawe
  • ʻAʻaliʻi mahu

Hawaiian Names

  • Aalii mahu
  • Kanehoa
  • Kawau (Lanai and Maui)
  • Maiele
  • Maieli
  • Puakeawe
  • Puakiawe
  • Pukeawe
  • Pukiawe
  • Pupukiawe

Common Names

  • Hawaiian heather
  • Kamehameha styphelia


  • Cyathodes banksii
  • Cyathodes douglasii
  • Cyathodes imbricata
  • Cyathodes macraeana
  • Cyathodes tameiameiae
  • Styphelia douglasii
  • Styphelia grayana
  • Styphelia tameiameiae

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Partially Woody / Shrub-like
  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • 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

Mature Size, Width

In the largest wild specimens of pūkiawe will grow to twelve or more tall and have a spread of about 6-8 feet.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Hedges
  • Screening

Additional Landscape Use Information

Though commonly seen in its natural habitat, pūkiawe is not seen much in urban or rural landscape. One reason may be that they are very slow to germinate, taking from three months to over two years. Additionally, they are generally very slow growing, taking years to be large enough to outplant.

An irony among native Hawaiian plants is that some of the most endangered plant species are very easy to germinate and grow, while some of most common are among the most challenging to germinate and establish.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White
  • Pink
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The flowers are variable and range from white to pale pink. From a distance of ten feet or more, the tiny flowers when seen en masse along with the fruits are quite showy a display.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

After flowering, small fruit appear in abundance and are dark to light red, pink or sometimes white, and occasionally mottled. [6] In their natural habitat two or more fruit color forms can be within feet of each. Fruits can be white, pink, or light to dark red.

Inside of the fruit, they are white or pinkish, and dry and mealy.

The fruits, for example, in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are pure white. [12]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Gray / Silverish
  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Red spider mites can occur on the undersides of leaves resulting in sickly plants. Wash off or spray with horticaltural oil.

leaf Growth Requirements


Apply a light fertilizer every six to eight months. [4]

Pruning Information

Prune to maintain size and shape. [4]

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Spacing Information

Recommended spacing is at 3 to 4 feet apart. [4]


  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Cinder


Salt tolerances is moderate for coastal types. [4]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

A common indigenous shrub often the principal vegetation component, in from low elevation mesic to wet montane forests, fogswept alpine shrublands, and bogs from 50 to about 10,600 feet on all the main Hawaiian Islands, except Niʻihau and Kahoʻolawe, where it may have occured in the past.

Also from the Marquesas Islands (Nuku Hiva).

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Formerly in the family Epacridaceae, pūkiawe (Leptecophylla tameiameiae) now joins the Ericaceae or the Heath family along with the three endemic ʻōhelo (Vaccinium spp.).


The generic name Leptecophylla, from the Greek leptekes, thin at the point, and phyllon, leaf, aptly describing another feature of pūkiawe--the fine pointed-leaves. [3,12]

The specific epithet tameiameiae is named in behalf of King Kamehameha I, or Kamehameha the Great (c.1758-1819), who established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. Incidentally, his full Hawaiian name was Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea. Heh! ...and you thought you had a long name.

Hawaiian Names:

Kāwaʻu is a name used on Lānaʻi and Maui for this plant, and also for two unrealted plants, Ilex anomala and Mezoneuron kavaiense.

Pūkiawe is also a local name for the Black-eyed Susan or Rodsary pea (Abrus precatorius), a vining legume, the seeds of which are used for lei, rosaries, and costume jewelry. [7]

Background Information

Pūkiawe is regarded by some as a "weed" of no forage value. [2,13]

Nēnē, or Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis) and other birds, eat pūkiawe berries and thus add in the spread the shrub. [12]

The sapwood is said to be light reddish-brown, while the heartwood is dark reddish-brown. It is a fine-textured heavy wood of moderate hardness. [13]

Early Hawaiian Use


The leaves were used for colds or headaches. [7]


The new leaves (liko) and fruit were used by lei makers. [1,4,10,11]


Second stage kapa beaters, called kua kala, were made from several native woods including "a form of the native pūkiawe." [5]

The easily accessed wood was used to cremate bodies of bandits (brigands) or "outlaws." [10,12]

Other Uses:

For the early Hawaiians the entire pūkiawe plant was highly esteemed. Botanist Degener quotes N. B. Emerson: "When a kapu-chief found it convenient to lay aside his* dread exclusiveness for a time, that he might perhaps mingle with people on equal terms without injury to them or to himself, it was the custom for him--and according to one authority those with whom he intended to mingle joined with him in the ceremony--to shut himself into a little house and smudge himself with the smoke from a fire of Pukeawe. At the conclusion of this fumigation a priest recited a pule huikala, a prayer for a dispension." [6,8,10,14]


* (or, presumably she?) [6]

Modern Use

Today, the branch tips are traditionally used medicinally for headaches (ʻaki). [9]

Pūkiawe is also used in lei. [12,13]

Additional References

[1] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages 140-141.

[2] "Handbook of Hawaiian Weeds" by E. L. Haselwood, page 294.

[3] "Dictionary of Botanical Epithets" by Chuck Griffith http://www.winternet.com/~chuckg/dictionary.html

[4] "Growing Plants for Hawaiian Lei" by CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources), Universirty of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, pages 44-45.

[5] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 62, 77.

[6] "A Hiker's Guide to Tailside Plants in Hawaiʻi" by John B. Hall, pages 47-48.

[7] http://www.wehewehe.org [Accessed 4/14/10]

[8] "Plants of Hawaii National Park" by Otto Degener, page 247.

[9] "Medicine at Your Feet: Healing Plants of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume 1," by David Bruce Leonard, page 196.

[10] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 663-664.

[11] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, page 126.

[12] "Paradisus: Hawaiian Plant Watercolors" by Geraldine King Tam and David J. Mabberley, page 34.

[13] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 308.

[14] Haleakalā National Park http://www.nps.gov/hale/index.htm [Accessed on 7/16/13]

[15] "Vegetation of the Tropical Pacific Islands" by Dieter Mueller-Dombois & F. Raymond Fosberg, page 557.




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