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Pleomele spp.
Alternative Botanical Names
Dracaena spp.
Common Names
Hala pepe
Potential or Traditional Uses
Lei (Flower or Seed)
Photo of Pleomele forbesii plants
There are 6 species of Pleomele endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. These plants look similar to Dracaena, one common form of which is called "Money Tree" in Hawai'i. They are trees ranging in height from 5 to almost 40 feet tall. The height and amount of branching vary by species. The branches are generally thin and flexible with obvious scars along them where old leaves have fallen off. The bark on larger trunks is smooth and gray.

The tough flexible leaves are long and narrow. For example, the leaves of Plemele aurea are about 1 1/4 inch wide and 18 inches long. The leaves are arranged in a spiral along the branch and are generally clustered toward the end of the branch. The flowers grow in large, branched bunches and are generally yellow to greenish yellow in the Hawaiian species. (Lamb 1981; Wagner 1990)

Habitat and Geographic Range
Each of the 6 endemic Hawaiian Pleomele species grows on a specific island. Pleomele aurea grows in moist forests and in hala (Pandanus tectorius) forests on the island of Kaua'i at elevations ranging from 400 to 3,500 feet. Pleomele auwahiensis grows in central Moloka'i and leeward Maui in remnant dry forests and, occasionally, moist forests at elevations of 2,000 to almost 4,000 feet. The Lana'i Pleomele, P. fernaldii grows remnant dry forests from 1,600 to 2,100 feet.

Pleomele forbesii grows in dry and moist forests on O'ahu at elevations ranging from 780 to 2,400 feet. It is found mostly in the Wai'anae Mountains, but also on both ends of the Ko'olau Mountains. Pleomele halapepe is another O'ahu species growing in both dry and moist forests from 600 to 2,000 feet. The Big Island species, Pleomele hawaiiensis, is a Federally listed endangered species. It grows primarily in the dry forest on the leeward side of Hawai'i island in the Kau District above Pohue Bay and on Holei Pali in the Puna District. (Culliney 1999; Wagner 1990)

Propagation by Seeds
The fruits of all of the Hawaiian Pleomele species are round berries from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. They form in large clusters of from 25 to over 200 fruit. The unripe fruits are hard and green or tan in color. As they ripen, they soften and turn orange or red. The fruits generally ripen in the summer and fall. Each berry contains 1 to 3 white or yellow seeds. The seeds are kidney-shaped or somewhat round and less than 1/4 inch long. Culliney notes that seeds from unripe fruit are susceptible to rotting while those from ripe fruit are more resistant to this problem.

Culliney and Koebele write that it is possible to harvest an entire stalk containing both ripe and unripe berries and have the fruit continue to ripen for up to 2 months. To do this, place the base of the stalk in water being careful not to submerge the berries. Every few days, slice off about 1/4 inch of the base and change the water.

The seeds of Pleomele must be removed from the fleshy fruits. Stratton et al recommend softening the fruits in a plastic bag. This makes the seeds easier to clean. After softening, the fruit flesh can be removed by either placing the fruits in a colander or strainer under running water, or breaking up the fruit by hand in a bowl of water. The lighter pulp will float and can be poured off.

The seeds should then be washed thoroughly. They can be treated with a fungicide to reduce rotting and air dried on a paper towel. Lilleeng-Rosenberger uses a wash of Physan 20. Culliney and Koebele recommend soaking the seeds for 1/2 hour in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. After removal from the bleach solution, soak the seeds for a day in just enough tap water to cover them.

Best results are obtained with fresh seed. Plant the seeds in shallow containers in a quick draining mixture. Stratton et al suggests 3 parts #2 perlite to 1 part Sunshine Mix #4. Culliney and Koebele use damp vermiculite and cover the seeds with green sphagnum moss. Remove most of the moss when the seeds begin to germinate.

Keep the containers in a covered, shaded area to protect them from rain damage. Culliney and Koebele experienced germination times of 2 to 4 weeks. Stratton's informants give germination times of 5 weeks to 6 months and indicate that the germination rate is usually only 5 to 10%. The seeds rot easily if the medium is too moist or if not pre-treated with fungicide. Transplant as soon as possible.

Fresh Pleomele seeds lose viability when stored. If seeds must be stored, the cleaned, air dried seed should be put in an paper bag or envelope and placed in an airtight container with desiccant. Keep the container in a cool place at 25% relative humidity. (Culliney 1999; Lamb 1981; Stratton 1998; Wagner 1990)

Propagation by Cuttings
Pleomele can be grown from cuttings. (Stratton 1998)
Propagation by Division
No information located to date.
Propagation by Air Layers
No information located to date.
Propagation by Grafting
No information located to date.
Propagation by Tissue Culture
No information located to date.
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. 57-59.

Lamb, Samuel H. 1981. Native trees and shrubs of the Hawaiian Islands. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Sunstone Press. p. 26.

Lilleeng-Rosenberger, Kerin. 1996. Plant propagation notebook. Unpublished materials: National Tropical Botanical Garden.

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.

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. 1351-1354.

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

Last updated:
7 October 2001

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