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Hibiscus waimeae
Alternative Botanical Names
None found
Common Names
Koki'o ke'oke'o
Hawaiian White Hibiscus
Kauai White Hibiscus
Koki'o kea
Potential or Traditional Uses
Photo of Hibiscus waimeae flowers
Hibiscus waimeae is a small, gray-barked tree up to 30 feet tall. The upper surface of the leaves is light green while the lower surface is covered with velvety hairs which makes it appear grayish. The round or oval leaves are 2 to 7 inches long and 1 to 5 inches wide. The single flowers last only one day. They are white when they open in the morning and they fade to pink in the afternoon. The flowers occur towards the ends of the branches and have a strong, sweet fragrance. The staminal column is pink to crimson.

There are two recognized subspecies of Hibiscus waimeae. Subspecies hannerae has larger leaves and smaller flowers, about 2 inches in diameter. This subspecies is rare and occurs only in Kaua'i's northwestern valleys of Hanakapi'ai, Limahuli, and Kalihi Wai. The subspecies waimeae has larger flowers and is found from Waimea Canyon to the western and southwestern ocean-facing valleys of Kaua'i at elevations of 2,000 to 3,000 feet. (NTBG 1992; Rauch 1997; Wagner 1990)

Habitat and Geographic Range
Hibiscus waimeae is an endemic Hawaiian plant with one rare subspecies. It grows in the moist forests of Kaua'i from 800 to 3,900 feet. Hibiscus waimeae is found from upper Waimea canyon to the western and northern coasts of that island. (Wagner 1990)
Propagation by Seeds
The seeds of Hibiscus waimeae are contained in a tough, oval capsules about an inch long. The fuzzy brown seeds are about 1/8 inch long. Hibiscus waimeae is easily grown from fresh seed, but Hawaiian hibiscus hybridize readily and seedlings may be very different from the parent plant. To ensure that the seedlings are not hybrids, hand pollinate the flowers. Using a paint brush, transfer pollen to the stigma of the flower and then enclose the flower in a bag until the seed capsule ripens. Bornhorst (1991) recommends hand pollination in the early morning.

Seeds should be removed from the capsules before planting. Dry the capsules in a container such as a paper bag. The seeds will fall out of the dried capsules or they can be removed manually. The early NTBG publication (1989) suggests the use of a 24 hour hot water soak or scarification as seed pretreatments. The later NTBG publications (1992) and Bornhorst (1996) do not indicate that pretreatment is necessary.

Seeds should be planted in a well-drained sterile mix such as 2 parts perlite, 1 part vermiculite and 1 part sterile potting soil, or a mix of 1 part perlite to 2 parts sterile potting soil. Place the pots in the shade and keep the media moist, but do not over water. Germination generally takes place in 3 to 9 days. (Bornhorst 1991; Bornhorst 1996; NTBG 1989; NTBG 1992; Wagner 1990)

Propagation by Cuttings
Hibiscus waimeae grow easily from semi-hardwood cuttings. Cuttings should be from 4 to 6 inches long, about 1/4 inch in diameter (pencil-sized), and have at least 3 nodes.

Dip the bottom end of the cutting in a medium strength rooting hormone; Bornhorst (1996) recommends Rootone F or Hormex #3; Bornhorst (1991) also reports the use of a 1:10 Dip N Gro solution.

Use a well-drained medium such as a mixture of 1 part potting soil and 1 part perlite (NTBG), or a mix consisting of perlite and vermiculite (Bornhorst 1991). Keep the cuttings in a humid environment and the rooting medium moist using a mist system if possible. Bornhorst (1991) reports the successful use of a mist system which was one for 24 seconds every 3 minutes. Cuttings are ready to transplant in about 3 months. (Bornhorst 1991; Bornhorst 1996; NTBG 1992)

Propagation by Division
Not applicable.
Propagation by Air Layers
Hibiscus waimeae can be air layered. Bornhorst (1991) recommends selecting a branch that is growing upright and making the air layer between 1 and 2 feet from the tip of the branch.

To start a plant by air layering, remove the bark and cambium from a 1 inch wide ring of bark. Apply a rooting hormone to the cut surface and cover this with a layer of damp sphagnum moss. Wrap the moss in plastic being sure to secure the ends where it wraps around the branch. Bornhorst (1996) suggests that root systems from air-layered plants are not as vigorous as those produced by other techniques. (Bornhorst 1991; Bornhorst 1996)

Propagation by Grafting
Hibiscus waimeae can be propagated by grafting. Use a tough rootstock such as the common red, pink waterfall, or double pink. Most grafting techniques will work. The scion (the piece of the desired plant that will be attached to the rootstock) should be 3 to 4 inches long with 2 to 4 nodes. Cut the scion from branches that are semi-mature; both tips and stem sections work well for scion wood. Bornhorst (1991) recommends either wedge or side wedge grafting techniques. (Bornhorst 1991; Bornhorst 1996)
Propagation by Tissue Culture
No information located to date.
Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1991. Propagating native hibiscus. Horticulture Digest (93):3-5.

Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1996. Growing native Hawaiian plants: a how-to guide for the gardener. Honolulu: The Bess Press. p. 35-36.

National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). 1989. Koki'o ke'oke'o [Hibiscus waimeae ssp. hannerae]. In Native Hawaiian plant information sheets. Lawai, Kauai: Hawaii Plant Conservation Center. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Unpublished internal papers.

National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). 1992. Koki'o ke'oke'o [Hibiscus waimeae ssp. waimeae]. In Native Hawaiian plant information sheets. Lawai, Kauai: Hawaii Plant Conservation Center. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Unpublished internal papers.

Rauch, Fred D., Heidi L. Bornhorst, Rhonda Stibbe, and David L. Hensley. 1997. Kauai white hibiscus, Ornamentals and Flowers, OF-21. 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.)

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. 888-889.

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Last updated:
9 August 2001

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