Polyscias racemosa

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Pōkūlakalaka
  • Pōkalakala

Hawaiian Names

  • Pokalakala
  • Pokulakalaka

Common Names

  • False 'ohe
  • Munroidendron


  • Munroidendron racemosum
  • Tetraplasandra racemosa

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Provides Shade
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Pōkalakala has excellent landscape potential for lowland and urban areas due to hardiness and ability to thrive in dry areas. Though one of the rarest native members in the family, it is one of the easiest to grow and maintain under cultivation. They are also one of the most rewarding trees for lowland urban gardeners and landscapers. Munroidendron are rather quick growing trees, flowering and fruiting at a young age.

Alien birds such as Mejiro, or Japanese white-eye, visit flowering trees frequently to sip nectar from the flowering raceme. Red-vented and red-whiskered bulbuls, and spotted doves can be seen feeding on ripe fruits in the urban garden. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

This beautiful native tree may be grown in containers if provided with part shade to full sun and fertilizers at half strength. [3]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Red
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Approximately 250 small pale yellow flowers with reddish centers hang on impressive unbranched racemes 10 to 24 inches long. The species name racemosa refers to this spectacular ponytail-like hanging inflorescence.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Pōkalakala may lose many of its leaves during a dry summer blooming period. An equally remarkable raceme of downy white egg-shaped fruits (drupes), each under an inch long, follows that flowering period. The inside of the fruits are deep purple with flat seeds.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The leaves are 6 to 12 inches long with five to nine oval or elliptical leaflets. Each leaflet is 3 to 7 inches long. The unfolded immature leaves at the end of each branch resemble small fuzzy clasping hands.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The surface of the leaves are smooth, while the undersides are covered with dense golden yellowish fuzz.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Pōkalakala is prone to ants, red spider mites and spotted leaf hoppers.

A type of boring insect is very destructive and can destroy a mature tree in a short time if not given immediate attention. Look for sawdust type material coming from tiny holes. This pest works fast, so treat as soon as it is noticed.

leaf Growth Requirements


Young trees benefit from an application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements every six months. Foliar feed monthly for young trees with kelp or fish emulsion, or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one half to one third of recommended strength. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Water weekly until well established, indicated by forming new leaves at branch tips or center in young plants. Thereafter, trees will require moderate ammounts of watering to keep them healthy.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray


  • Cinder
  • Organic

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Pōkalakala is endemic to Kauaʻi where it is very rare in the wild. Most natural populations are found on steep exposed cliffs or on ridge slopes in coastal to lowland mesic forests about 395 to over 1,300 feet.

Other populations are found in hala (Pandanus tectorius) mesic forests, alien plant-dominated shrubland, or grasslands (Eragrostis spp.).

This beautiful species is now found in only four natural locations on Kauaʻi. [2]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

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

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


The former genus Munroidendron was named for George C. Munro (1866-1963), a manager of Molokaʻi Ranch, ornithologist and botanist. The Greek suffix -dendron, tree, is added to the generic name.

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

The specific epithet racemosa is the Greek word for raceme in reference to the spectacular hanging inflorescence (floral arrangement) of this species.

Hawaiian Name:

Pōkalakala is a named shared by the endemic Hawaiian prickly poppy (Argemone glauca), more commonly known by Pua kala.

Background Information

Formerly, this species belonged to the Hawaiian endemic monotypic genus* Munroidendron. Recently it has been placed in the genus Polyscias, comprising over 100 species.

*A monotypic genus is a genus having only one species. Other examples of monotypic genera endemic to the Hawaiian Islands are the native begonia called pua maka nui (Hillebrandia sandwicensis), kanaloa (Kanaloa kahoolawensis), olonā (Touchardia latifolia), kanawao (Broussaisia arguta), and a tall native species of grass (Dissochondrus biflorus).

Early Hawaiian Use

The Hawaiian name Pōkalakala suggests that it was apparently known, and perhaps used, by early Hawaiians. [1] But as to how is not known.

Modern Use

Preliminary tests with the fruits produce a rich purple dye when wet and dry to a lighter plum color. [Kaʻiulani de Silva, Kapa Mau]

Additional References

[1] "The Story of Lānaʻi" by George C. Munro, page 199.

[2] "Sublime Beauty--Hawaiʻi's Trees" by Jim Wageman, page 22.

[3] "Container Gardening in Hawaii" by Janice Crowl, page 51.

[4] "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.



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