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Psydrax odorata
Alternative Botanical Names
Canthium lucidum
Canthium odoratum
Coffea odorata
Plectronia odorata

Common Names
Potential or Traditional Uses
Lei (Flower or Seed)
Photo of Psydrax odorata flowers
Psydrax odorata is a shrub or small tree ranging in height from 6 to 30 feet, but spreading only 3 to 7 feet in width. The elliptical leaves are glossy green on the top surface and up to 3 1/2 inches long. The small, white flowers are fragrant and are born in clusters. (Wagner 1990)
Habitat and Geographic Range
Psydrax odorata is indigenous to Hawaii, Micronesia, and parts of the South Pacific. In Hawai'i, it grows in dry shrub land and in dry to moist forests to an elevation of 2,700 feet. Psydrax odorata has been found on all the main islands of Hawai'i except Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe. (Wagner 1990)
Propagation by Seeds
The fruit of Psydrax odorata is about 3/8 inch in diameter, more or less round, and glossy black and juicy when ripe. The fruits are generally ripe in the late fall and winter. The pulpy fruits generally contain two seeds. Although many seeds are produced, they are often attacked by the larvae of the moth Orneodes objurgatella. These seeds have holes in them, are generally not viable, and should be discarded. Criley notes that fewer than 10% of seeds may be viable due to insect damage.

Psydrax odorata grows easily from healthy seeds. Culliney and Koebele note, however, that the seeds in unripe fruit will not germinate. If viable seeds are available, they should be removed from the pulpy fruit. The soft fruits can be broken up by hand in water; the lighter pulp will float and can be poured off. The seeds should then be washed thoroughly and dried on a paper towel. Before planting the seeds, soak them for 24 hours in cool tap water. Stratton's survey respondents recommended soaking for as long as 48 hours, changing the water daily. Discard seeds that float.

Culliney and Koebele recommend disinfecting the seeds by putting them in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for 1/2 hour. After the seeds are removed from the bleach solution, soak them in tap water for a day using just enough water to cover the seeds.

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. They write that germination takes about 1 month.

Other sources suggest planting the seeds at a depth of about twice their diameter in a soil-less, well-drained potting mix. NTBG suggests 1 part perlite to 1 part peat; Stratton's informants also suggested a mixture of 3 parts #2 perlite to 1 part Sunshine Mix #4. Keep the planting medium moist and place the containers in a shaded location. Again, these sources state that germination generally takes about 30 days, but it may take as long as 6 months.

In his germination studies, Obata found that untreated seeds had germination rates ranging from 5 to 30%. Yoshinaga found that fresh seeds of Psydrax odorata have a germination rate of 50%. The germination rate drops rapidly with storage at room temperature (55-84 degress F) and normal humidity of 58-98%. Some seeds remained viable after being stored for one year at 39 degrees F with a humidity of 10%. (Criley 1999; Culliney 1999; NTBG 1992; NTBG 1996; Obata 1967; Stratton 1998; Wagner 1990; Yoshinaga 1997; Yoshinaga 1998)

Propagation by Cuttings
Reliable techniques for starting Psydrax odorata from cuttings have not yet been developed. Ginoza and Rauch tested 4 dilutions of rooting hormone with a 2 to 1 indolebutyric acid (IBA) to naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) ratio (Dip'n Grow) on 4 inch cuttings. The dilutations ranged from 500 to 5,000 parts per million (ppm) of IBA. Vermiculite was used as the rooting medium and the cuttings were placed under intermittent mist of 6 seconds every 2 minutes. There was no significant difference in the results from the different treatments and the maximum rooting percentage obtained was 7%.

Criley reports limited success in rooting softwood cuttings under high humidity using 4,000 parts per million (ppm) indolebutyric acid (IBA). This work was done using an intermittent mist system which was on for 6 to 8 seconds every 5 or 6 minutes under 30% shade. He reports 10 percent of cuttings rooted with this treatment in 10 to 12 weeks. Increasing the IBA treatment to 5,000 and 10,000 ppm did not improve rooting success. (Bornhorst 1996; Criley 1998; Criley 1999; Culliney 1999; Ginoza 1997; NTBG 1992)

Propagation by Division
Not applicable.
Propagation by Air Layers
Successful techniques for propagating Psydrax odorata from air layers have not yet been developed. (Bornhorst 1996; NTBG 1992)
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.

Criley, Richard A. 1998. Propagation of indigenous and endemic ornamental Hawaiian plants. Combined Proceedings of the International Plant Propagators' Society 48:669-674.

Criley, Richard A. 1999. Aloha Hawai'i. American Nurseryman 190 (3):50-61.

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. 50-53.

Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1996. Growing native Hawaiian plants: a how-to guide for the gardener. Honolulu: The Bess Press. p. 57-58.

Ginoza, Harold, and Fred D. Rauch. 1997. Vegetative propagation of alahee, Horticulture Research Note HRN-2. 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.)

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

National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). 1996. Ten native Hawaiian trees for urban landscapes. Lawai, Hawaii: Education and Plant Science Departments. National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Obata, John K. 1967. Seed germination in native Hawaiian plants. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 6 (3):13-20.

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. 1119.

Yoshinaga, Alvin. 1998. Storing seeds of some native rain forest plants: some simple methods. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 37 (2):28-32.

Yoshinaga, Alvin Y., Marie Lau, and Rosa Lum. 1997. Storing seeds of native Hawaiian rainforest plants. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 36 (3/4):66-68.

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Last updated:
7 October 2001

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