College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources logo

Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database

database logo

Dodonaea viscosa
Alternative Botanical Names
Dodonaea angustifolia
Dodonaea arborescens
Dodonaea eriocarpa
x fauriei
Dodonaea sandwicensis
Dodonaea skottsbergii
Dodonaea spathulata
Dodonaea stenoptera
Ptelea viscosa

Common Names
'A'ali'i ku makani
'A'ali'i ku ma kua
Potential or Traditional Uses
Lei (Flower or Seed)
Photo of Dodonaea viscosa capsules
Dodonaea viscosa is an extremely variable species throughout its natural range. There are many distinctive populations and these have been described as separate species by some authorities. Wagner et al considers Hawaiian Dodonaea viscosa populations one species.

Dodonaea viscosa can be a medium-sized shrub or small tree up to 25 feet tall, but most often it is 6 to 12 feet in height. The plant may have one or several main trunks which have reddish-brown to blackish gray bark.

There is a lot of variation in leaf size and shape, but the leaves are generally longer than they are wide and most often pointed (lance-shaped to elliptic). Most often, the leaves are 1 to 4 inches long. They are usually glossy green and often have reddish midribs or stems. The new leaves, and sometimes older ones as well, are covered with a sticky substance. Generally, older leaves have a rough, sandpapery texture.

The individual flowers are small, 1/4 inch in diameter, and occur in branched clusters. They are either male or female and only the female flowers develop into the decorative capsules. Some plants will have both male and female flowers in which case only a single plant is required to produce capsules. Other plants will have either male or female flowers so that at least one male plant is required for the female plants to produce capsules. (Bornhorst 1996; Koob 2001; Obata 1997; Rauch 1997; Wagner 1990)

Habitat and Geographic Range
Dodonaea viscosa is indigenous and widespread throughout the tropics. In Hawai'i, Dodonaea viscosa is found on all the main islands except Kaho'olawe in almost every habitat ranging from almost sea level to 7,500 feet. It is often found in open locations such as ridges and is a early colonizer of lava fields and pastures. (Rauch 1997; Wagner 1990)
Propagation by Seeds
The fruit of Dodonaea viscosa is a winged capsule containing several small, round, black seeds. This species is particularly variable in capsule size, number of wings (generally 2 to 4), and the degree of inflation (roundness). Capsule color ranges from straw colored to brown, pink to mahogany red to reddish-purple. Each capsule contains a few round dark seeds; each seed is about 1/8 inch in diameter.

To remove the seeds from the dry papery capsules, air dry them at room temperature in a bowl or paper bag. Carefully rub the fruits through a strainer with the appropriate size mesh, or rub them between your hands. If using a strainer, the seeds should fall through leaving the debris in the strainer.

Hot water treatment will usually improve germination rate and speed, but treatment may not be necessary for fresh seed. NTBG and Rauch suggest using water that has been brought to a boil, but temperatures ranging from 120 - 135 degrees F may be adequate. Cover the seeds with about three times as much water and soak them for 24 hours. Stratton et al recommends soaking for 4 to 24 hours in hot or room temperature water. Culliney and Koebele recommend that the seeds be disinfected by a brief soak in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. The seeds are then either soaked overnight in just enough room temperature water to cover the seed or treated with 150 degree F hot water long enough for the water and seeds to cool to room temperature. Discard any seeds that float.

Koob writes that immature seeds, which are generally white or tan in color, will germinate if they are planted immediately; do not use hot water treatment on these immature seeds.

Plant the seeds in a sterile, moistened mixture such as 3 parts perlite and 1 part peat or Sunshine Mix #4. Both standard potting mix and vermiculite have also been recommended. Most sources recommend planting the seeds 1/8 inch deep, but Koob recommends 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Culliney and Koebele suggest sowing the seeds on the top of moistened vermiculite and covering them with a layer of moistened green sphagnum moss. As soon as the seeds begin to germinate, remove most of the moss layer.

After sowing, place the pots in a covered location and keep the planting medium moist. Germination generally takes 2 to 4 weeks, but published times vary from 1 week to 6 months. Stratton gives a germination rate of 50%.

To store seeds of Dodonaea viscosa, remove them from their papery capsules and air dry them at room temperature. Place them in a paper bag or envelope in an airtight container with a desiccant. Keep them in a cool place with about 25% relative humidity. (Bornhorst 1996; Culliney 1999; Koob 2001; Lilleng-Rosenberger 1998; NTBG 1992; Rauch 1997; Stratton 1998; Wagner 1990)

Propagation by Cuttings
Dodonaea viscosa can be grown from cuttings which will ensure that the resulting plants have the same desirable characteristics as the parent plant. Cuttings should be taken from healthy, unstressed plants using branches that do not have flowers or fruit. Best rooting success is obtained from material taken from near the base of the plant. Success is most likely using semi-hardwood material. Koob states that cutting size is not critical, but he recommends making 4 to 6 inch long cuttings from material that is 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter.

Use of at least a medium strength rooting hormone is required. Koob recommends Dip 'N Grow at a rate of 1:5 or 1:10. Tangalin used an auxin concentration of 2,500 parts per million (ppm). Apply the rooting hormone to the lower end of the cutting after the leaves have been removed. Place the treated cuttings in moist, sterile medium.

Tangalin found that using perlite as a rooting medium resulting in a 75% rooting rate and that these cuttings developed good quality short, sturdy roots with ample root hairs. While a medium consisting of 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite had a slightly higher overall rooting rate, the quality of the roots was not as good as the perlite medium.

Keep the cuttings moist; daily misting may be required. Keep them in the shade and out of the wind so that they don't dry out. In Tangalin's work, the cuttings stuck in perlit began developing root initials in 3 weeks. Cuttings should root in 4 to 6 weeks. (Koob 2001; Tangalin 2000)

Propagation by Division
Not applicable.
Propagation by Air Layers
Dodonaea viscosa can be propagated by air-layering using standard techniques. The mother plant should be healthy and unstressed and best success is obtained when the plant is not flowering or fruiting. It takes 4 to 6 months for an air layer of Dodonaea to root. Air layers should not be removed from the mother plant until the roots fill the spaghnum moss around the air layer. Plant the new plant in standard potting mix and keep it moist until additional roots form. Keeping the plant in a shady location out of the wind will keep it from drying out. (Koob 2001)
Propagation by Grafting
No information located to date.
Propagation by Tissue Culture
No information located to date.
Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1990. Introduction to xerophytic native Hawaiian plants. The Bulletin of the National Tropical Botanical Garden 20 (3):49-54.

Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1996. Growing native Hawaiian plants: a how-to guide for the gardener. Honolulu: The Bess Press. p. 37-38.

Culliney, John L., and Bruce P. Koebele. 1999. A native Hawaiian garden: how to grow and care for island plants. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 35-37.

Koob, Gregory A. 2001. I am an 'a'ali'i... Hawai'i Horticulture 4 (6):3-7.

Lilleeng-Rosenberger, Kerin. 1998. Propagation techniques for native Hawaiian plants. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 37 (2):33-35.

National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). 1992. 'A'ali'i. In Native Hawaiian plant information sheets. Lawai, Kauai: Hawaii Plant Conservation Center. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Unpublished internal papers.

Obata, John K. 1997. Common native Hawaiian plants worthy of cultivation. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 36 (3/4):74.

Rauch, Fred D., Heidi L. Bornhorst, Rhonda Stibbe, and David L. Hensley. 1997. Aalii, Ornamentals and Flowers, OF-20. Honolulu: Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. (Also available as a PDF file at Free CTAHR Publications.)

Stratton, Lisa, Leslie Hudson, Nova Suenaga, and Barrie Morgan. 1998. Overview of Hawaiian dry forest propagation techniques. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 37 (2):13, 15-27.

Tangalin, Natalia S. 2000. Unpublished paper on propagation media for rooting cuttings of Dodonaea viscosa: Department of Horticulture, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Wagner, Warren L., Darrel R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. 1990. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawai'i. 2 vols., Bishop Museum Special Publication 83. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press. p. 1226-1228.

Search Database

Browse Database --
By Botanical Name
By Common Name

Other Native Hawaiian Plant Sites

Other Plant Propagation Sites

Database Bibliography

Database Home Page

Other CTAHR Databases

The image in this record is used with permission from Dr. Gerald Carr's Web site "Hawaiian Native Plants" at

Last updated:
18 September 2001

Please send comments and suggestions to