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Sporobolus virginicus

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Sporobolus

Species

virginicus

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Mahiki
  • Māhikihiki
  • Mānienie
  • Mānienie maoli
  • Mānienie māhikihiki
  • Mānienie ʻakiʻaki
  • ʻAki
  • ʻAkiʻaki

Hawaiian Names

  • Aki
  • Akiaki
  • Mahiki
  • Mahikihiki
  • Manienie
  • Manienie akiaki
  • Manienie mahikihiki
  • Manienie maoli

Common Names

  • Beach dropseed
  • Saltgrass
  • Sand couch
  • Seashore dropseed
  • Seashore rush grass
  • Seashore rushgrass

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Indigenous

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping
  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Grass-like, Short, Less than 1
  • Grass-like, Medium, 1 to 2.5

Mature Size, Width

ʻAkiʻaki size varies greatly because of the spreading nature via rhizomes, but its width may range anywhere from 2 to 10 feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Erosion Control
  • Ground Cover

Additional Landscape Use Information

Outplant in a site that mimics the environment, allowing room for the grasses to grow and the seeds to regenerate themselves. Though not suitable as a turfgrass, it has been suggested that this native grass could be used for golf course roughs.

Source of Fragrance

  • Leaves

Additional Fragrance Information

ʻAkiʻaki leaves have a pungent odor.

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Brownish
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

ʻAkiʻaki is densely flowered with glossy grayish or yellowish brown spikelets.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

The hairy leaf blades range from 1 to over 5 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

This native grass is prone to ants, scale, mealy bugs, thrips and aphids.

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

Low fertilizer requirements, as is the case with most native grasses. ʻAkiʻaki does not appear to be a heavy feeder and can grow in low nutrient soils with some organic matter. Foliar feedings in early morning with a water-soluble or an organic fertilizer (e.g. kelp or fish emulsion) at one-third to one-fourth the recommended strength every other month have proved to be beneficial. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additionally, this coastal indigenous grass seems to appreciate, and even thrive, with an occasional spritz of sea water. But apply only to areas dedicated for salt tolerant coastal plants, as salt can be difficult to leach from upland soils once in the soil. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

No pruning is required. ʻAkiʻaki does not take mowing well, but can occasionally be trimmed with a string trimmer (weed whacker) at higher trimmings of at least five inches or higher. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist

Additional Water Information

ʻAkiʻaki grows naturally in dry conditions but seems to prefer moist conditions until it is established. Then, watering can be cut back as the plant will tolerate short periods of drought.

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Spacing Information

Depending on how quickly the area needs to be covered, space ʻakiʻaki stolons or plugs about 4 to 10 inches apart. The plantings will grow together to form a sparse to dense patch. Growth rate is moderate.

Plants will also reseed themselves, hence the common name dropseed.

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Brackish Water
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat

Soils

  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

Limitations

Somewhat drought tolerant for short periods of time but does better with some moisture.

ʻAkiʻaki does not make a good turfgrass for lawns and will decline with high foot traffic.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Kahoʻolawe
  • Hawaiʻi
  • Northwest Islands

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

ʻAkiʻaki occurs on coastal dunes and other coastal sites just above the high tide mark to about 50 ft. on all of the main islands and on Midway Atoll (Pihemanu) and Laysan (Kauō) in the Northwest Islands.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻAkiʻaki (Sporobolus virginicus) belong to the Poaceae (Grass family). Of the seven or eight species now found in Hawaiʻi, only this species is indigenous.

Etymology

The genus name Sporobolus is derived from the Greek sporos, seed, and ballein, to throw, in reference to the fruit (the pericarp) which swells and bursts when soaked, thus pushing out or dropping the seed. Dropseed is a vernacular name for this grass.

The specific epithet virginicus has reference to "from the Virgin Islands, Virginian." [2]

Early Hawaiian Use

The leaves, culms and roots were used medicinally. [3] The plant was mixed with other ingredients and used to treat ʻea (thrush) and pāʻaoʻao (childhood disease, with physical weakening). [1]

Modern Use

ʻAkiʻaki is currently used for erosion control on sand dunes and other unstable coastal areas. [3]

Additional References

[1] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 74.

[2] "The Names of Plants" by David Gledhill, page 402.

[3] "Hawaiʻi Wetland Field Guide" by Terrell A. Erickson and Christopher F. Puttock, page 269.

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