Tribulus cistoides

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Nohu
  • Nohunohu

Hawaiian Names

  • Nohu
  • Nohunohu

Common Names

  • Jamaican feverplant
  • Puncture vine
  • Spiny-fruited caltop

Did You Know…?

The early Hawaiians also gave the name nohu to the scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis spp.) with poisonous spines. Though the puncture vine does not have poisonous spines, the plants defend themselves just as effectively as the ocean fish with the same name.

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Herbaceous, Short, Less than 1

Mature Size, Width

Nohu spreads to at least six feet or more. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Life Span

Short lived (Less than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Ground Cover

Additional Landscape Use Information

Nohu has to be amongst the quirkiest of native Hawaiian plants. Seems people have a love/hate affection for this plant, perhaps because while nohu is a beautiful and graceful native groundcover it is also armed with some of the most aggressively spinney seedpods existing in the natural world! 

Quite honestly, nohu may not be the plant to have as a groundcover if you have pets, children or walk bare foot, or even with slippahs, in the yard...because these have some mean spines that show no mercy! Seriously!

However, for a natural shoreline landscape, this is a beautiful addition and a conversation plant.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

The bright yellow flowers can be quite dramatic in number.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Leaf Colors

  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Spider mites, thrips, mealy bugs and aphids have ben noticed as pests.

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun


  • Drought
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Nohu is an indigenous coastal plant, and a weed in some pantropic habitats. In the Hawaiian Archipelago it is found in the all of the main islands to the Northwest Islands except Gardner Pinnacles and Necker.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Nohu (Tribulus cistoides) is the sole native Hawaiian member of the Creosote bush family (Zygophyllaceae).


The generic name Tribulus comes from the Greek word for caltrop, tribolos, a ghastly 4-pointed metal antipersonnel weapon, with one point always pointing upwards to cripple human troops, horses, camels or elephants in warfare.

The specific epithet cistoides alludes the flowers similarity to the genus Cistus, also called rockrose or labdanum.

Hawaiian Name:

Nohu is also the name of scorpionfishes (Scorpaenopsis cacopsis and other scorpaenids) with poisonous spines. (See Did You Know...? near the top of this page.

Background Information

The ecological importance of Tribulus cistoides is noted by the following: "In 1896, nohu occurred 'almost everywhere on the island, especially in sandy areas between the single Eragrostis bunches' (Schauinsland 1899). This quote suggests that at the turn of the century, nohu was somewhat more common on Laysan than it is currently. It was one of the few plants to survive the devegetation by rabbits...Its relatively large, spiney seeds probably aided in its ability to withstand the rabbits' grazing. Also, as the Laysan Finch population fell during the island's devegetated stage, finch predation on nohu and other seeds may have decreased, allowing a seed bank to remain. Laysan Ducks have been reported to forage under nohu, and the now extinct Laysan Honeycreeper got nectar from it (Munro 1960)." [2]

The Laysan finch (Telespiza cantans) feed on nohu seeds, leaves, flowers, runners, and seedlings as a minor part of their diet. [2,3]

However, the 1967 experimental introduction of Laysan finches to Pearl and Hermes Reef used nohu as a major part of their diet. [3] It should be noted that there were fifteen native species to the islands of Pearl and Hermes Reef, only of which one is now extinct (Achyrathes atollensis).

An important natural habitat of nohu, pōhuehue (Ipomoea pes-caprae), and alena (Boerhavia repens) currently exists on Laysan. [2]

Early Hawaiian Use

Medicinally, the leaves and roots of nohu were pounded and used for ʻaʻai (sores, ulcers) and pūhō (abscess, burst sores). [1]

Modern Use

Nohu has been generally viewed by many as a weed and to be eradicated.

The spiny fruit of nohu can be quite painful if stepped on barefoot. The spines will even puncture rubber slippers. Thus, modern views of nohu are often negative, resulting in beaches and other porpulated locations being totally cleared of this native plant. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Additional References

[1] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 77.

[2] "Laysan Island ecosystem Restoration Plan" by Marie Morin & Sheila Conant, pages 2, 21.

[3] "The Hawaiian Honeycreeper (Drapndidae)" by H. Douglas Pratt, pages 20, 64, 199.



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