Mezoneuron kavaiense

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Mezoneuron

Species

kavaiense

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kea
  • Kolomona
  • Kāwaʻu
  • Uhiuhi

Hawaiian Names

  • Kawau
  • Kea
  • Kolomona
  • Uhiuhi

Synonyms

  • Caesalpinia kavaiensis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

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

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Though uhiuhi can be challenging, it is not a difficult tree to grow if a few growing and planting practices are observed. Primarily, uhiuhi does not do well in standard type pots (e.g. round pots) and roots will began to circle at the bottom of pot and eventually strangle the potted plant. This usually results in eventual death for the plant. If plants require being in pots for any length of time, long square cones pot are best.

Plant uhiuhi when young, at perhaps a foot high or less. Make sure the hole has sufficient drainage because plants do not like excessive amounts of water, especially in the root area. Use caution to avoid disturbing the roots any more than necessary.

Seeds that have been inoculated or planted with debris from mature trees seem to do best.

Watch for signs of black twig borer and other life-threatening pests. After the plant is established, severely cut back on the watering, doing so only in times of drought. This is a very drought tolerant tree. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Showy

Flower Colors

  • Orange
  • Pink
  • Purple
  • Red
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

At least with the Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island forms, the flower colors vary. The Oʻahu form flowers are pink and orangish to greenish; the Hawaiʻi Island form are rose to reddish.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Cultivated species can have sporadic blooming periods or be in near constant bloom year round.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Black twig borer is a serious threat to uhiuhi and should be treated as soon as twigs dying back is detected.

Mealy bugs can infest new growth on younger plants.

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Once planted to a location and established, uhiuhi will need very little water. In fact, too much water cuts down on flower production.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Heat

Soils

  • Clay
  • Cinder

Limitations

See above section "Additional Landscape Use Information."

Special Growing Needs

Uhiuhi saplings grown in pots do not have a massive root system that fills the pot. So, when removing uhiuhi from the pot much of the soil falls away leaving exposed roots with little or no soil. To prevent this from happening, it is suggested growing plants with fibrous root systems, such as native grasses or koʻokoʻolau (Bidens spp.) in the same pot with uhiuhi. These plants will help to create a root mass in the pot encompassing the uhiuhi roots, and making the transformation to a planting site more successful and less stressful for the uhiuhi. [12]

As already mentioned, uhiuhi do not do well in pots. As they grow larger, the roots tend to coil and strangle the plant. Root coiling stunts tree development and can eventually kill the tree. To avoid this until ready to plant out to a site location, they are best grown in deep pots will which allow the roots to grow longer and resulting in healthier trees. When planted out, the longer roots will already be deeper into the soil where it is cooler and where moisture is more likely to be retained during drought-like periods.

See above section "Additional Landscape Use Information."

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

An extremely rare tree found in dry forests from about 260 to around 3020 feet.

This endangered species is now very restricted on Oʻahu (Central leeward Waiʻanae Mts.), Lānaʻi (Puhiʻelelū), [6] and Hawaiʻi Island (North Kona District). Apparently now extinct in the wild on Kauaʻi (Waimea Canyon) and West Maui.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The genus Mezoneuron belongs to the Fabaceae or Pea family.

Etymology

The former genus Caesalpinia is named for Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603), Italian botanist, philospher and physician.

The current generic name is Mezoneuron is from the Greek meizon, greater, and neuron, nerve, referring to the winged pod. [10]

The specific epithet kavaiense is in reference to the island of Kauaʻi.

Hawaiian Names:

Kāwaʻu and Kea are Maui names for this tree. Kāwaʻu is a name also shared by Ilex anomala and Leptecophylla tameiameiae.

Kolomona was a name listed by Hillebrand. [9]

The name Uhiuhi has, at times, been spelled as two words as Uhi uhi [7] or with ʻokina as ʻUhiuhi or Uhiʻuhi. However, it is normally spelled as Uhiuhi, one word and without ʻokina.

Background Information

Uhiuhi wood is very dark, exceedingly hard, durable and dense. It even sinks in seawater.

Though extremely rare or extinct in the wild, the Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Lānaʻi, and Hawaiʻi Island forms are surviving under cultivation.

Early Hawaiian Use

Early Hawaiians had many uses for uhiuhi. They fashioned the very hard wood into digging tools (ʻōʻō), war clubs and daggers, prepping boards for kapa (lāʻau kahi wauke), kapa beaters, kalo (taro) cutters, [2] spears for heʻe (octopus), fishing implements (lāʻau melomelo or lāʻau mākālei), and shark hooks (makau manō) fitted with bone points. [1,7,8] The strong wood was also used in house (hale) construction for posts, rafters and perlins. [1,7]

Games & Sports:

Uhiuhi, or usually māmane, wood was also used for sled runners in a sport for the aristocrats called hōlua. The slopes, or sledding track, called kahua hōlua were usually made with layers of grass or ti leaves. [7,11]

The papa hōlua, the sled used for this sport, was made of two narrow runners and were 7 to 12 or 18 feet long, 2 or 3 inches deep, rounded on the bottom, and highly polished. The front end tapered off and turned upward so as not to dig into the soil. The two runners were fastened together by a number of short pieces of wood laid horizontally across and lashed to the runners with cordage. Matting on the platform was lashed to the crossbars separating the runners.

Notes the Huliheʻe Palace website: "The person about to slide gripped the sled by the right hand grip, ran a few yard to the starting place, grasped the other hand grip with the left hand, threw himself forward with all his strength, fell flat on the sled and slid down the hill. His hands held the handgrips and the feet were braced against the last cross piece on the rear portion of the sled. The sport was extremely dangerous as the sleds attained high speed running down hill. Much skill was necessary to keep an even balance and to keep from running off the slide or overturning the sled. In competitions, the sled that went the farthest, won." [3]

Lei:

One older source (Charles Gaudichaud,1819) states that Hawaiians "used all fragrant plants, all flowers and even colored fruits" for lei making. The red or yellow were indicative of divine and chiefly rank; the purple flowers and fruit, or with fragrance, were associated with divinity. Because of their long-standing place in oral tradition, the flowers of uhiuhi were likely used for lei making by early Hawaiians, even though there are no written sources. [4]

Medicinal:

The bark and young leaves pounded with other plants were pounded, squeezed and liquid taken to purify the blood. [5]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 25, 43, 45, 56, 61, 63.
[2] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), pages 13-14, 425, 439-440.

[3] Huliheʻe Palace www.huliheepalace.org/visiting.htm [Accessed 12/4/08]

[4] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages XIV-XV, page 145.

[5] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value" by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 38.

[6] "The Story of Lānaʻi" by George C. Munro, map enclosed with publication.

[7] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, page 15.

[8] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, pages 12, 68, 110-111.

[9] http://www.wehewehe.org [Accessed 10/13/11]

[10] "CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names" by Umberto Quattrocchi.

[11] "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 156.

[12] "Implementing site recovery: tools, tricks, and techniques," Bill Garnett, Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium, February 21, 2013.

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