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Psydrax odorata

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Psydrax

Species

odorata

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Alaheʻe
  • Walaheʻe
  • ʻŌheʻe

Hawaiian Names

  • Alahee
  • Ohee
  • Walahee

Synonyms

  • Canthium lucidum
  • Canthium odoratum
  • Coffea odorata
  • Plectronia odorata
  • Psydrax odoratum

Did You Know…?

With a little more patience to grow it, alaheʻe can be used to replace mock orange (Philadelphus spp.), named so because of the citrus-like smell of the flowers. It's easy to see how mock orange got it's Hawaiian name alaheʻe haole. The leaves, bark and the flowers of mock orange are very similar to alaheʻe, but the plants are totally unrelated to each other. Alaheʻe is a memeber of the Coffee family (Rubiaceae); mock orange belongs to the Hydrangea family (Hydrangeaceae).

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Indigenous

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50

Mature Size, Width

Alaheʻe can have a spread of 20 feet or more, but usually under ten feet wide.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

These non-agressive trees can be slow in growth but well worth the patience. In the landscape this handsome tree can also be planted wherever mock orange, or alaheʻe haole, is used.

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Additional Fragrance Information

The fragrance, mild to very strong, is usually at its peak in the mornings.

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Showy

Flower Colors

  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

The clusters of fragrant bright white flower en mass seem light up the trees when in bloom.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic
  • Winter

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Some alaheʻe trees are more showy in floral display than others, with large clusters of white flowers. Dark purple or greenish-purple fruits follow the flowering period.

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The leaves are arranged in opposites along the stem and have a glossy upper surface with a dull lower surface.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves of alaheʻe remain vibrant and shiny even in periods of drought.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

The fruit of alaheʻe are often attacked by seed borers. The trees are also prone to ants, scale, mealy bugs, thrips and aphids.

Serious pests can be green coffee scale (Coccus viridis) and black twig borer (Xylosandrus comapctus).

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

An application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements every six months, especially for young trees. 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. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

Generally none necessary. Some trees, depending on origin and/or growth environment, even when young, will have a very nice uniformly natural shape to them already.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Drought tolerant. But does tolerate moist conditions if soil is well drained.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Keep plant in shaded condition until out planting, move pots to full sun to harden off. Alaheʻe looks and does best in full sun.

Spacing Information

For hedges or as screens, space 3 to 6 feet apart. To showcase individuals alahe

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Wind

Soils

  • Clay
  • Cinder
  • Organic

Limitations

Generally slow growing trees but nurseries may offer good sized trees. [3]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • 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)
  • Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)

Additional Habitat Information

Alaheʻe is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and found in habitats that vary such as shrubland to dry, mesic and wet forests from about 30 to over 3,800 feet.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Belonging to the Coffee family (Rubiaceae), alaheʻe is locally renown for its wonderfully fragrant flowers and very hard, durable wood.

Etymology

The generic name Psydrax is derived from the Greek word for blister or bump in reference to the warty fruit or the pimply seeds of some species in this genus. [7]

The specific name odorata is from the Latin odoratus, fragrant, referring to the sweet smelling flowers.

Hawaiian Names:

The Hawaiian name alaheʻe means, "slippery like the squid (octopus)." Ironically, spears were fashioned for capturing heʻe (octopus) and were often made from alaheʻe.

Early Hawaiian Use

Many tools and fishing implements were made from the hard wood of alaheʻe. Spears, from 6 to 13 feet long, were fashioned for capturing heʻe (octopus), as well as for ʻōʻō, fishhooks, shark hooks (makau manō) with bone points, short spears (ʻo), and dip nets for fish and crabs. [1,2,5,8,9] The wood was also made into adze blades for cutting softer wood such as wiliwili and kukui. [5]

Also, there is an example at the Bishop Museum (Honolulu, Hawaiʻi) of the wood fashioned into a bowl. [10]

Dyes:

Reportedly a dark brown or black dye was produced from the leaves of alaheʻe by early Hawaiians. [5,9]

Lei:

One older source (Charles Gaudichaud,1819) states that Hawaiians "used all fragrant plants, all flowers and even colored fruits" for lei making. The red or yellow were indicative of divine and cheifly rank; the purple flowers and fruit, or with fragrance, were associated with divinety. Because of their long-standing place in oral tradition, the leaves and flowers of alaheʻe were likely used for lei making by early Hawaiians, even though there are no written sources. [4]

Medicinal:

The leaves and "the white skin of the stem" are prepared by cooking and the bitter medicine is drunk to cleanse the blood. [6]

Modern Use

Great native trees sometimes used in xeric landscapes.

Leaves and flowers resemble mock orange, though not related to them, and may be a suitable native replacement for them. The flowers also have a more pleasant fragrance than mock orange flowers (Philadelphus coronarius).

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 25, 43, 45, 65.
[2] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), pages 304-305.

[3] "Small Trees for Tropical Landscape" by Fred D. Rauch & Paul R. Weissich, page 105.

[4] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages XIV-XV, 12.

[5] "Trees and Other Plants Used by Early Hawaiians" by C.S. Judd, page

[6] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, pages 90-91.

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psydrax [Accessed on 12/27/10]

[8] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, pages 22-23.

[9] "Hawaiian and Other Polynesian Gourds" by Ernest S. Dodge, page 71.

[10] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" http://data.bishopmuseum.org/ethnobotanydb [Accessed 2/5/13]

[11] "How to Plant a Native Hawaiian Garden" by Kenneth M. Nagata, page "Alaheʻe."

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