Rubus hawaiensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kala
  • ʻĀkala
  • ʻĀkalakala

Hawaiian Names

  • Akala
  • Akalakala
  • Kala

Common Names

  • Hawaiian raspberry
  • Hawaiʻi blackberry


  • Rubus damieni
  • Rubus hawaiiensis
  • Rubus hillebrandii
  • Rubus sandwicensis

Did You Know…?

ʻĀkala is the Hawaiian name for pink, referring to the color of the juice of this native raspberry. Early Hawaiians used it to produce a pink to rose-colored dye for their kapa (tapa). The two species of native raspberries are among the largest fruiting species in the world with sometimes two inch long berries. Joseph Rock, botanist, called them the "giant raspberry."

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Hedges

Additional Landscape Use Information

Some garden shops may offer raspberry or blackberry plants for the home owner. Usually, these are not our native ʻākala (Rubus hawaiensis), but are an introduced species. Please plant native species whenever possible. There a few nurseries that do grow ʻākala, particularly on Hawaiʻi Island. Best grown in cooler temperatures at sites of 1000 feet or higher.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Pink
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

Flowers are usually dark pink to rose, rarely white and about 1-1 1/2 inches in diameter. [1]

Blooming Period

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

ʻĀkala blooms from April to July. [7]

The very large fruits, as much as two inches in diameter edible berries, are bland or tart to sweet. The fruits range in colors of salmon, pink, red, dark purple, yellow and white. [1]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves are fuzzy. Upper portion of the stems are prickly; while lower portions with few or no prickles.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Pests seem to affect plants grown at lower elevations more than those grown near their native habitat.

Ungulates (goats, sheep, cattle) are highly destructive to ʻākala populations and have reduced their numbers in the wild. [7]

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Moist

Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Molokaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 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)

Additional Habitat Information

ʻĀkala (Rubus hawaiensis) is found in mesic to wet forests and subalpine woodland from 2165 to over 10,000 feet on Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, Maui and Hawaiʻi Island.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻĀkala (Rubus hawaiensis), and its rarer cousin R. macraei on East Maui and Hawaiʻi Island, belong to the Rose family (Rosaceae) with nearly 3,000 species.

The two other native members are the endemic Hawaiian strawberry or ʻōhelo papa (Fragaria chiloensis subsp. sandwicensis) and the indigenous ʻūlei (Osteomeles anthyllidifolia), both of which have edible fruit ranging from bland to bitter to mildly sweet.

There are also several introduced species, many highly aggressive invasives, in the Hawaiian Islands: Prickly Florida blackberry (R. argutus), Himalayan blackberry (R. discolor), Yellow Himalayan raspberry (R. ellipticus var. obcordatus), Andean raspberry (R. glaucus), Mysore or Hill raspberry (R. niveus), Mauritius raspberry or thimbleberry (R. rosifolius), and Molucca raspberry (R. sieboldii).

The two Hawaiian species of Rubus are not as closely related as once thought. Rubus hawaiensis is genetically closer to R. ursinus, while R. macraei is closer to R. spectabilis, both from western North America. [6]


The generic name Rubus is from the Latin name for bramble, orginally obtained from ruber, red.

The specific epithet hawaiensis is in reference to it being found on Hawaiʻi Island.

Hawaiian Name:

ʻĀkala is the Hawaiian name for pink, referring to the color of the pink juice.

Background Information

ʻĀkala will naturally or artifically hybridize with other species. A putative population of hybrids between the native ʻākala (Rubus hawaiensis) and the naturalized thimbleberry (R. rosifolius) were recently found in Kīpahulu Valley, Maui. Thus far, these have turned out to be sterile hybrids with no backcrossing to either parent. [11]

Nector feeding birds or nectivores, especially ʻiʻiwi, use flowers as a food source. Other honeycreepers (e.g. ʻŌʻū) will eat the large fruits piecemeal. [14]

Early Hawaiian Use


Early Hawaiians used fibers of ʻākala (Rubus hawaiensis, R. macraei) bark to make kapa (tapa), but was inferior to wauke, māmaki, ʻoloa (Neraudia melastomifolia), or ʻulu (breadfruit). [3,16] Kapa cloth was made from the inner bark of the ʻākala stem, yet was not of poor quality. Some authors believe kapa was never made from the inner bark of ʻākala. [16]


ʻĀkala fruit was used to produce a pink to rose-colored dye for their kapa (tapa). [2,4,7,13,16]


They also ate the berries of both native species and used the flowers and ripe fruits. [2]


Ashes from burnt plant material, such as the stem, was used to treat kēpia (dandruff), heartburn (umauma naha), or mixed with poi to induce vomiting due to stomach ailments (hoaoa luaʻi). [7,8,15] Sometimes the ashes were used for bathing. [9]

Modern Use

Decades ago, hybrids with native and non-native species were tested, but the flavor of the offspring produced bitter fruits. In 1930, Otto Degener, botanist, writes: "Dr. Willis T. Pope of the Federal Experiment Station in Honolulu has been growing and hybridizing Rubus hawaiiensis with various raspberies of North America since 1928." [10,12] In 1933, W. T. Pope planted three patches of R. hawaiensis in Waiʻanaeuka, Mount Kaʻala, Oʻahu with plants from Kona, Hawaiʻi Island.

Though the fruit is often bitter, they are commonly used to make pies and preserves. [5] They have also been used to make filling for delicious malasadas. [J.B. Friday, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources]

Eating too many berries act as a laxative. [16]

Additional References

[1] "Trailside Plants of Hawaiʻi's National Parks" by Charles H. Lamoureux, page 30.
[2] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 65.
[3] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 168.

[4] "Lā'au Hawaiʻi" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, pages 56, 57.

[5] "Practially Edible" [acessed 2/12/10]

[6] "Pacific Science," Vol. 7, No. 2, April 2003, pages 181-195.

[7] "Hawaiian Forest Plants" by Mark Merlin, page 60.

[8] "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value," by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 8.

[9] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 43.

[10] "Plants of Hawaii National Park" by Otto Degener, pages 171, 173.

[11] "Genetic analysis of natural hybrids between endemic and alien Rubus (Rosaceae) species in Hawaiʻi" by Rebecca A. Randell, et. al., page 217.

[12] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 391.

[13] "Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture" by Donald D. Kilolani Mitchell, page 128.

[14] "The Hawaiian Honeycreeper: Drapandidae" by H. Douglas Pratt, pages 17, 132, 136.

[15] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" [Accessed 1/29/13]

[16] "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 16.

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