Peperomia sandwicensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kupaliʻi
  • Kūpaoa
  • ʻAlaʻala
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui kupa liʻi
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui kāne
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui pehu
  • ʻAlaʻala wai nui pōhina
  • ʻAwalauakāne

Hawaiian Names

  • Alaala
  • Alaala wai nui
  • Alaala wai nui kane
  • Alaala wai nui kupa lii
  • Alaala wai nui pehu
  • Alaala wai nui pohina
  • Awalauakane
  • Kupalii
  • Kupaoa

Common Names

  • Singlespike peperomia


  • Peperomia pachyphylla
  • Peperomia purpurascens

Did You Know…?

Peperomias are in the same family (Piperaceae) as black pepper (Piper nigrum) and like their famous cousins the sticky, poppy-like seeds of the fruits have a slight to sharp peppery taste.

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Herbaceous, Short, Less than 1

Mature Size, Width

This species spreads to about 10-12 inches or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hanging Basket

Additional Landscape Use Information

This species will occasionally sprout small plantlets or vegetative growths form near the tips of the flowering spike. These plantlets can be used to propagate new plants. Too, seedlings will come up in nearby pots. This species tends to be somewhat slow growing but well worth the patience. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Source of Fragrance

  • Fruits

Additional Fragrance Information

Fruits/seeds smell and taste like black pepper. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Peperomia spp. produce tiny sticky seeds which have a peppery taste.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Red

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves on upper surface are dark green or sometimes dark purplish green, lower surface is red to dark red  or sometimes pale green or only veins pale green.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information


leaf Growth Requirements


Does well with regular foliar feedings of fish or kelp emulsion or standard fertilizer for houseplants at at least half the recommended strength. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

 Not necessary expept to remove dead material.

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun

Spacing Information

When planting as a groundcover, 10-12 inches.


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

No data available.


  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Peperomia sandwicensis var. sandwicensis has been recorded from Kauaʻi, Oʻahu (Waiʻanae Mountains; Koʻolau Mountains), East Molokaʻi, and West Maui. [Joel Lau, Botanist]

This species is found as an epiphyte or a terrestrial on moss-covered rocks in mesic valleys to wet forests from 820 to to about 4000 feet.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The 25 native species of Peperomia spp. in the Hawaiian Islands, two of which are indigenous, with the remainder being endemic. Also one naturalized species P. pellucida is sometimes found as a weed or in cultivation on Oʻahu.

Being in the same family (Piperaceae) as black pepper (Piper nigrum), the sticky, poppy-like seeds of the fruits have a slight to sharp peppery taste. Peperomias, despite the name, are not related to bell and chili (nīoi) peppers which belong to an entirely different family.

However, there are other well known local relatives of peperomias and they are ʻawa, or kava, (Piper methystichium), and the mis-named betle nut (Piper betle), which is chewed with the nut of the areca palm (Areca catechu). Both Pipers are stimulants. [2]


The genus name Peperomia is drived from the Greek peperi, pepper, and homoios, resembling, referring the to similarity to the true pepper, Piper.

The species name sandwicensis 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:

Another totally unrelated plant, an indigenous native mint (Plectranthus parviflora), also goes by the name ʻalaʻala wai nui.

Background Information


Early Hawaiian Use


From the leaves and stems of Peperomia spp. a rich gray green dye called ʻahiahia, or puahia, made from the ashes was used for dying kapa (tapa) by the early Hawaiians. [1]


The juice was used as a tonic and for inner ear disorders. [3] Various parts of the plants with other ingredients were used orally for fetid vaginal discharge, debilitating consumption, relapse after recovery from illness, severe asthma, and possibly for various stages of appendicitis. [4]

Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database notes:

"There are a number of medicinal uses of the plant called ‘ala‘ala wai nui (see Abbott 1992:102; Chun 1994:31–38; Handy et al. 1934), but there may be some confusion between two plants, the Peperomia species and Plectranthus parviflorus. The Peperomia species are associated with kane (man). Chun notes that the leafbuds of ‘ala‘ala wai nui pehu are combined with ‘ilima flowers in a treatment for newborn babies. In the treatment of ‘ea, the leaves are processed with bark of the ‘ohi‘a ‘ai (Syzygium malaccense), kō kea (white sugarcane Saccharum officinarum), kukui flowers and fruit (Aleurites moluccana), ‘aka‘akai ‘oliana (onion) and kikania. For treatment of kohepopo, hinanawe, hopilo, and wai‘opua the stems are mixed with pith of ‘amau‘ama‘u (Sadleria cyatheoides), hala (Pandanus tectorius), ‘ohi‘a ‘ai bark (Syzygium malaccense), kō kea (white sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum), and noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia). For ke‘ewai and ni‘au, ‘ala‘ala wai nui is used in conjunction with ‘uala (sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas), noni bark, hāpu‘u shoots (Cibotium spp.), kō kea, and kukui. In treatment of ma‘i wai kohepopo a nawai hele a lena ka walewale, flower, leaf and stem are ground and mixed with niu, and eaten with a "sticky" banana (Chun 1994:31–35)." [5]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 65.
[2] [Accessed 10/4/08]

[3] "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth green Handy, page 239.

[4] [accessed 8/21/07]

[5] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" [Accessed 2/5/13]

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