Polyscias sandwicensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻOheʻohe (Niʻihau)
  • ʻOhe
  • ʻOhe kukuluaeʻo
  • ʻOhe makai
  • ʻOheokai

Hawaiian Names

  • Ohe
  • Ohe kukuluaeo
  • Ohe makai
  • Oheohe (Niihau)
  • Oheokai

Common Names

  • Hawaiian reynoldsia


  • Reynoldsia degeneri
  • Reynoldsia hillebrandii
  • Reynoldsia hosakana
  • Reynoldsia huehuensis
  • Reynoldsia mauiensis
  • Reynoldsia oblonga
  • Reynoldsia sandwicensis

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

Mature Size, Width

ʻOhe makai can have a nearly 60-foot spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Container
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Plant out when trees are young. When established cut back on watering this tree.

Do not be alarmed if you see this tree drop all the leaves in the summer. It is not dead! There is no need to water to encourage leaf growth either. Allow ʻohe makai to rest. Resume watering at end of summer or early fall.

For this reason, ʻohe makai may not be the best choice as a shade tree.

This may not be a choice landscape plant for some gardeners that would not be accustomed to a tropical tree loosing its leaves during the summer dormant period. [Anna Yorba, Hawaiian Garden Design, LLC; David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Green
  • Orange
  • Purple
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Flowers of ʻohe makai are on short racemes, ranging in color from greenish-yellow to orange purple.

Blooming Period

  • Fall

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Small dark purple fruits follow the blooming period.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

ʻOhe makai leaves are 2 to 4 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

ʻOhe makai is prone to ants, scale and mealy bugs.

leaf Growth Requirements


For young trees an application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements every six months. Foliar feed monthly with kelp or fish emulsion, or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one half to one third of recommended strength. Large trees will receive nutrients from surrounding soil. Do not fertilize in the summer months.

Pruning Information

Not necessary unless to control canopy spread. Do not cut back too severely though if deciding to prune. ʻOhe makai naturally looses leaves in summer dormancy or at other dry times of the year, so some raking may be necessary then. But the leaves are thin and will compost quickly if left on ground. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Too much soil moisture can kill this tree. Once the plant is well established do not water except in extremely dry conditions. Especially do not water in summer dormancy.

ʻOhe makai is a true xeric, or drought tolerant, tree in every sense of the word!

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Full sun to partial sun. But ʻohe makai grows optimally in full sun conditions.


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Heat


  • Cinder


ʻOhe makai does not like "wet feet," that is, constant moisture in the root area and espeially in the summer.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)

Additional Habitat Information

ʻOhe makai naturally grows in dry to occasionally mesic forests and is becoming increasingly rare. It is found from about 100 to over 2,600 feet in elevation.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻOhe makai belongs to the Ginseng family (Araliaceae), which also includes other native trees such as ʻōlapa (Cheirodendron spp.), munroidendron or pōkalakala, and ʻohe mauka.

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 Reynoldsia is named on behalf of J. N. Reynolds, an early 19th century plant collector and promoter of the South Sea Exploring Expedition.

The new generic name Polyscias is from the Greek word "many-shades" in reference to the foliage. [3]

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 1770's. James Cook named the islands after John Montagu (The fourth Earl of Sandwich) for supporting Cook's voyages.

Hawaiian Names:

ʻOheʻohe is a Niʻihau name for this plant.

Background Information

ʻOhe makai is one of the few native Hawaiian trees that are deciduous, dropping all leaves during the summer month dormancy, or at other dry times of the year.

This species is becoming rare in its natural habitat. [5]

Early Hawaiian Use

Boys and girls, as well as men, in old Hawaiʻi nei enjoyed walking on wooden stilts called kukuluaeʻo, or simply aeʻo, named after the long-legged Hawaiian black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudsenii). The wood they choose for this game was ʻohe makai. [1]

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. [2,4]

Modern Use

The soft whitish wood is apparently not used today. [5]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 89.

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

[5] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 302.




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