Imiloa, Hilo Attractions | Endemic Plants
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Endemic Plants

Endemic plants are unique to Hawaii. These plants came to Hawaii via wind-currents or storms, birds, or ocean currents and evolved into forms uniquely suited to their new environment—these can be found nowhere else on Earth.

Some endemic plants found in ‘Imiloa's landscape include:

Used most commonly to as an aid for tidepool fishing because of its paralytic effect on small fish, this plant is also used medicinally in humans. Its strong, fibrous bark provided an important source of cordage. The flowers and orange-red fruit are also used in making lei haku.

Ma‘o Hau Hele
Hawai‘i’s official state flower.  It was designated so by the 1988 Legislature.  Dr. William Hillebrand, the initial planter of Foster Botanical Garden, suggested in 1988 that the plant be given some kind of official recognition for its showy, bright yellow blossoms. Ma‘o hau hele is a shrub that grows from four to eight feet tall, primarily used for landscape purpose.


Highly prized for its beautiful and strong wood, the Koa tree is significant to Hawai‘i’s voyaging tradition because the trees, which could grow to heights of over 100 feet, were used to make large double-hulled canoes for deep sea voyages.

The most common tree fern in Hawaii, this plant provides food and shelter for native birds, land snails, and also serves as a "nursery" for other native plants to get their start in life. The soft Pulu from the Hapu‘u served as one of Hawai‘i’s first exports in the 1800s; sent as mattress & pillow stuffing for gold miners in California.

‘Ohi‘a Lehua
This plant has adapted to live in a variety of conditions throughout the Hawaiian Islands, so its appearance ranges from low shrubs to towering trees with blossoms ranging from white, yellow, salmon, pink to crimson. This plant is considered to be sacred to Pele, goddess of the volcano, and many famous chants refer to this plant in connection with her.

This plant grows as a shrub or small to medium sized tree. Its leaves are used medicinally. Its bark is used for making kapa cloth, as well as for rope or cordage.