Polyscias hawaiensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻOhe

Hawaiian Names

  • Ohe

Common Names

  • Hawaiʻi ohe


  • Tetraplasandra hawaiensis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50
  • Tree, Large, Greater than 50

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Provides Shade
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

These beautiful trees are relatively easy to grow and a very rewarding addition to the landscape. Depending on the origin of ʻohe, some trees are tall and narrow with few side branches and little canopy; others are shorter and branching having a wider canopy. So considering the variability of ʻohe, it may be advantageous to inquire of the habit, or stature, of the trees desiring to be used to suit your specific landscape needs and planting location. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Red

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Gray / Silverish
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The beautiful leaves of ʻohe are glabrous (without hairs) and medium to dark green above with yellowish or silverish tomentose (hairs) underneath. The trees can be recognized from a distance when the wind blows flashing the bright fuzzy under surface of the leaves. [Robert Hobdy, Botanist]

leaf Pests and Diseases

leaf Growth Requirements


Responds well to fertilizers. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Pruning Information

None required to maintain this beautiful tree.

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun


  • Wind


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • 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)

Additional Habitat Information

These trees occurs in mesic to wet forests from about 500 to over 2600 feet.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

This endemic shares the Aralia or Ginseng Family (Araliaceae) with other fascinating natives as ʻōlapa (Cheirodendron spp.), the unique pōkalakala (Polyscias racemosa), and ʻohe makai (Polyscias sandwicensis), the latter being one of the few deciduous native Hawaiian trees.

There are a total of 16 native species in Araliaceae in the Hawaiian Islands.

The non-native and invasive octopus tree or heʻe (Schefflera actinophylla) is also in this same family.


The former generic name Tetraplasandra is derived from the Greek tetraplasios, 4-fold, and andra, stamens, referring to the plant having four times the stamens as petals in some individuals.

The new generic name Polyscias is from the Greek word "many-shades" in reference to the foliage.

The specific epithet hawaiensis refers to Hawaiʻi.

Hawaiian Names:

The Hawaiian name ʻohe has at times been called ʻoheʻohe, a name also belonging to two other native species Polyscias gymnocarpa and P. kavaiensis.

ʻOhe also refers to a few other non-related plants: a rare endemic joinvillea (Joinvillea ascendens subsp. ascendens), an endemic grass (Isachne distichophylla), and the Polynesian introduced bamboo (Schizostachyum glaucifolium), as a well as the native lowland relative Polyscias sandwicensis, otherwise known as ʻohe makai. [1]

Background Information

The wood is said to be "white with a silvery luster, without distinct heartwood. It is lightweight, finetextured, straight-grained, and of moderate hardness." [4]

Early Hawaiian Use

The fruits were used medicinally for babies. The mother would eat the fruits feed her baby through breast milk to cure pāʻaoʻao (childhood disease, with physical weaknesses) and ʻea (thrush) with no side effects. [2]

Additional References

[1] http://wehewehe.org [Accessed 6/18/10]

[2] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 79.

[3] "Recircumscription of Polyscias (Araliaceae) to include six related genera, with a new infrageneric classification and a synopsis of species" by Porter P. Lowry II and Gregory M. Plunkett, page 61.

[4] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 306.




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