Lycium sandwicense

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻAeʻae
  • ʻĀkulikuli kai
  • ʻĀkulikuli ʻaeʻae
  • ʻĀkulikuli ʻōhelo
  • ʻŌhelo kai

Hawaiian Names

  • Aeae
  • Akulikuli aeae
  • Akulikuli kai
  • Akulikuli ohelo
  • Ohelo kai

Common Names

  • Hawaiʻi desert-thorn


  • Lycium carolinianum var. sandwicense

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Partially Woody / Shrub-like
  • Sprawling Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Mature Size, Width

ʻŌhelo kai has a spread of 6 or more feet.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Ground Cover

Additional Landscape Use Information

ʻŌhelo kai is ideal for low elevation or coastal landscapes as a groundcover.  Contrast the plants by using black cinder. They can also be planted in sandy, rocky soil in the garden. Plants should begin to flower and fruit within a year of planting out. Even though a true coastal plant, ʻōhelo kai can be planted at higher elevations in full sun and with proper drainage.

If planted in large containers use sand, coral rubble and cinder.

Companion Plants:

Plant with other coastal natives such as hala, ʻākulikuli, ʻaʻaliʻi, ʻilima, kīpūkai, maiapilo, and hinahina kū kahakai.*


* These plants can be found on this website using the "Browse Plants" feature found at the top. Enter plant names without diacritics.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Blue
  • Pink
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The single small tubular flowers are whitish or bluish to pink.

Blooming Period

  • Fall
  • Winter

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Bright red fruits follow the blooming period in the fall and winter months.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves are somewhat succulent with waxy bluish-green cast (glaucous).

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are somewhat succulent with waxy bluish-green cast (glaucous).

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Slugs and snails can ravage ʻōhelo kai when newly planted out as young plants. Sucking insects such as thrips, aphids, mealybugs, scale and whiteflies sometimes infest plants. To control these pests, control the ants.

leaf Growth Requirements


ʻŌhelo kai do not appear to need much ferilizer. In fact, over fertilizing can result in spindly plants with less succulent leaves than those found in the wild. Foliar feed montly if foliage yellows.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Do not over water these xeric plants.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Additional Lighting Information

Plants tend to languish and leaves less succulent if grown in too much shade.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Coral


Does not tolerant too much shade or water.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Kahoʻolawe
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Naturally occurs in subsaline and rocky coastal sites from shoreling to about 140 feet above sea level.

Indigenous to the main Hawaiian Islands, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Rapa (Australs), Mangareva, Tonga, Pitcairn, Henderson, and the Juan Fernandez Islands. Apparently, uncommon to rare throughout most of its range. [3]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻŌhelo kai is one of the few native members in the Solanaceae or Nightshade family which also includes four species of ʻaiea in the endemic genus Nothocestrum and four species of pōpolo (Solanum spp.).

ʻŌhelo kai (Lycium sandwicense) is very closely related to the nutritious wolfberry or goji berry (Lycium barbarum, L. chinense). Some other edible family favorites are tomato, potato, eggplant, cape gooseberry or pohā, tomatillo, and green and chili peppers.

However, as the family name implies, this group also has some of the deadliest of all plants with sinister names as Apple of Sodom, Angel's trumpet, Porcupine tomato, Thorn apple, Devil's fig, Devil's apple, and Five-Minute plant. Other kin containing toxic chemicals are mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), and tobacco (Nicotiana spp.). But the "Queen of Toxins," and one of our planets deadliest, is Belladonna (Atropa belladonna), which possess tropane alkaloids. It also goes by the names Devil's berries, Death Cherries, or Deadly nightshade. Then, there are some merely grown for their beautiful flowers like the garden favorites petunias, and the spectacular Golden challice vine (Solandra maxima).


The generic name Lycium is derived from lykion, the Greek name for a shrub from Lycia (southwestern Turkey) and used by Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), father of modern taxomony.

The specific epithet sandwicense refers to the "Sandwich Islands," as the Hawaiian Islands were once called, and named by James Cook on one of his voyages in the 1770s. James Cook named the islands after John Montagu (The fourth Earl of Sandwich) for supporting Cook's voyages.

Hawaiian Names:

The Hawaiian name ʻōhelo kai literally means "ʻōhelo by the sea." [1]

Background Information


Early Hawaiian Use

The fresh berries were strung as lei with kauna ʻoa. [1]

Modern Use

There are few uses for ʻōhelo kai even in modern times. But the berries are still used in lei and, even though the salty and not very tasty, they are sometimes eaten. [2,3]

Additional References

[1] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald and Paul R. Weissich, page 11.

[2] "Hawaiian Coastal Plants and Scenic Shorelines" by Mark David Merlin, page 12.

[3] "Flowers of the Pacific Island Seashore" by Dr. W. Arthur Whistler, page 60.

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