Kokiʻo: A Spectacle in the Bosom of Hualālai

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He pua lālea pūnono i ka poli o Hualālai
A gorgeously red flower, beacon-bright in the bosom of Hualālai

Photo: Kokiʻo
He nani hīhīmanu! – Photo: Bobby Camara

The island of Hawaiʻi is home to this endangered kokiʻo (Kokia drynarioides), found on arid lee slopes. We understand that two wild adult individuals remain, along with many outplanted, and some wild, keiki.

In the hibiscus family, kokiʻo is a small tree whose spectacular flowers feature recurved petals; truly a wondrous sight. This endemic genus has four species, one each extinct in the wild on Molokaʻi and Oʻahu, a surviving species with populations on Kauaʻi, and K. drynarioides on Hawaiʻi.

ʻIli kokiʻo (its bark) was carefully collected in vertical strips from the trunk, a rust-colored dye prepared, and white olonā fish nets dyed to both preserve and camouflage them from various iʻa. Pua hold wells of nectar frequented by pollinators and have been fashioned into stunning lei.

Remember: Plant parts of endangered species must only be gathered from cultivated yard plants – never in the wild!