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Vaccinium reticulatum
Alternative Botanical Names
Vaccinium bahalae
Vaccinium berberidifolium
Vaccinium macraeanum
Vaccinium peleanum
Vaccinium penduliflorum

Common Names
'Ohelo 'ai
Potential or Traditional Uses
Lei (Flower or Seed)
Photo of Vaccinium reticulatum berries and leaves
Vaccinium reticulatum is a small shrub generally no more than 4 feet tall. The stiff, upright branches grow from underground stems. The underground stems (rhizomes) develop when the plant is about 3 years old. The leathery, oval leaves are range in size from 3/8 to 1 1/4 inches long. The surface of the leaves varies from smooth and shiny to furry or hairy. The edges of the leaves can be either smooth or toothed; sometimes the edges of the leaves roll under. Part of the reason that the leaves are so variable is that Vaccinium reticulatum has juvenile and adult foliage. Often the topmost leaves of the main stem will have adult foliage while the rest of the plant will still have juvenile foliage.

The single flowers grow out of the bases of the leaves. The flowers are red, yellow, yellow with red stripes, or greenish yellow. They are about 1/4 inch long, tubular, and have 5 petals and 10 stamens. Flowering occurs throughout the year, but is most abundant from April to September. Vander Kloet found that his plants bloomed twice a year. It took 5 years for plants of Vaccinium reticulatum to bloom from seed. (Vander Kloet 1993; Wagner 1990)

Habitat and Geographic Range
Vaccinium reticulatum endemic and is most common on disturbed sites at elevations from 2,000 to 12,000 feet. It is most numerous on Maui and the island of Hawa'i. Is also occasionally found on Kaua'i, O'ahu, and Moloka'i where it is a member of the initial plant community on lava flows, ash dunes, and cinder beds. (Wagner 1990)
Propagation by Seeds
The fruits of Vaccinium reticulatum are edible berries with a wide color range. Wagner describes them as being red, reddish purple, bluish purple, dull black, yellow, orange yellow, yellowish green, or pink. They range in size from 1/4 to almost 1/2 inch in diameter. Each berry contains numerous (70 to over 100) small, brown seeds. Peak flowering season is from April to September and, since the berries take a 50 to 60 days to ripen, mature berries in quantity begin to be available in June.

Although not common in the rest of the genus, the flowers of Vaccinium reticulatum are self fertile. However, self pollination results in significantly fewer seeds per berry than develop in flowers that are cross pollinated.

The tiny seeds of Vaccinium reticulatum need to be separated from the flesh of the berries. In his work, Vander Kloet washed the seeds from the berries, air dried them, and separated the plump, light brown to reddish-brown seeds from the small, paler ones. Vander Kloet found that every berry contained both viable and non-viable seeds. The berries of Vaccinium reticulatum generally contain 50 to 200 seeds; at least half of these seeds are not viable. The viable seeds were round, triangular, or elliptical in shape.

Fresh seeds and seeds which had been stored for 6 months at 36 degrees F were planted in a medium of 1 part peat to 1 part sand and germinated in a misting chamber. The seeds were germinated under 14 hours of daylight. Daytime temperatures were over 80 degrees F and nighttime temperatures of around 55 degrees F. Under these conditions, seeds of Vaccinium reticulatum begin germinating is 19 days, but only 77 percent of the viable seeds germinated.

Obata found that seeds of Vaccinium sp. germinated easily only on a wet slab of tree fern (Cibotium sp.). He also reports that seeds of Vaccinium have germination rates ranging from 5 to 7 percent.

Yoshinaga reports that seeds of Vaccinium reticulatum retained a good germination rate after being stored for 6 to 12 months at 34 degrees F. Vander Kloet found that 6 months storage at 36 degrees F reduced germination percentages, but does not give specifics on the amount of reduction. (Obata 1967; Obata 1973; Vander Kloet 1993; Wagner 1990; Yoshinaga 1998)

Propagation by Cuttings
No information located to date.
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.
Obata, John K. 1967. Seed germination in native Hawaiian plants. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 6 (3):13-20.

Obata, John K. 1973. Propagating native Hawaiian plants (continued from February 1973). Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 12 (2):9-11.

Vander Kloet, S. P. 1993. Biosystematic studies of Vaccinium section Macropelma (Ericaceae) in Hawaii. Pacific Science 47 (1):76-85.

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. 593-595.

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

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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:
14 August 2001

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