Peperomia tetraphylla

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

  • Acorn peperomia


  • Peperomia parvula
  • Peperomia reflexa
  • Peperomia tetraphylla

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 mat-forming species spreads to 2 feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Hanging Basket

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

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

The fruit is yellowish to whitish with numerous poppy-like seeds.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

There are from two to usually three or four leaves per node along the stems.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are from yellowish-green to dark green, with lower surface slightly paler and thick.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

ʻAlaʻala wai nui is prone to ants, slugs, and snails. Fungal rot may be a problem usually due to poor soil drainage.

leaf Growth Requirements


An application of a balanced slow release fertilizer with minor elements every six months. Foliar feed with a kelp or fish emulsion, or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one-half to one-third of recommended strength, every month. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun

Spacing Information

Plants can be spaced from one to two feet apart as a groundcover; further as accent plants.


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

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

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 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)


  • Epiphyte
  • Lithophyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This is a pantropical species. In the Hawiian Islands it is found in diverse habitats such as in shaded or sometimes open sites, on rocks covered or nor with moss, or occasionally as an epiphyte in trees with or without moss, from 230 to over 7500 feet in mesic to wet forests, and alpine desert.


leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

With a total of 25 native species in the Hawaiian Islands, the featured species and Peperomia blanda var. floribunda are the only two indigenous peperomias, with the remainder being endemic. 

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

The specific epithet tetraphylla is from the Greek tetra, square or four, and phylla, leaf, in reference to the usually four leaves per node. 

Hawaiian Names:

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

Background Information

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

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]



leafMore Links

Back to Plant List

Plant List

Other Nursery Profiles for Peperomia tetraphylla