Facts about Hibiscus brackenridgei plant. The Hibiscus brackenridgei is called the ma’o hau hele in Hawaiian. It is sometimes called the yellow native hibiscus, Brackenridge's Rosemallow and pua aloalo. Hibiscus brackenridgei is one of seven species native to Hawaii.
The Hibiscus brackenridgei plant is a member of the Malvaceae family. H. b. mokuleianus is a subspecies that is native to Kauai while H. b. brackenridgei grows on the other islands. The subspecies molokaiana is almost extinct.
Appearance of the Hibiscus brackenridgei plant
The species is a perennial, growing as a shrub tree. It can sometimes reach thirty feet (9.14 meters) tall but usually grows three to fifteen feet (.91 to 4.75 meters) tall and eight to fifteen feet (2.43 to 4.75 meters) across.
Hibiscus brackenridgei plant produces a brilliant yellow flower with a long yellow stamen, typically in the winter and spring with sporadic showings throughout the rest of the year. The flowers sometimes have solid red centers or red dots at the base of each petal. Each flower is four to six inches (10 to 15 cm) across with five egg shaped petals. The flower has seven to ten bracteoles below them. Fertilized flowers turn into beaked seed capsules.
The leaves of the Hibiscus brackenridgei plant are green, with fine hair on top and thick fuzz below. They are light green in color. Leaves around the middle of the Hibiscus brackenridgei plant resemble maple leaves. Those on the top of the plant are more oblong. Branches are sometimes smooth or covered with spines.
This species is sometimes mistaken for the Chinese hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has leaves that are not lobed, the central stamen column of the flowers is larger, and it only has anthers near the tip of the column. On the Hibiscus brackenridgei plant, the anthers cover the entire column.
This species propagates through seeds. The plants live more than five years in the wild unless uprooted by pigs for food or burned by fire.
This species is closely related to H. divaricatus, which is far more widespread. H. divaricatus has smaller yellow flowers with more leaves; it is called the woodland sunflower.
Range of the Hibiscus brackenridgei plant
This plant is native to Hawaiian Islands. It only lives in the dry lowlands and mesic forest. It grows at elevations of 400 to 2,600 feet (122 to 792 meters). It needs sun, doing best on south and west facing slopes.
The Hibiscus brackenridgei plant was originally found on all major Hawaiian islands except Ni’hau and Kaho’olawe. It is now critically endangered in the wild. The wild population is found on the islands of Hawaii, Lanai and Maui, with fewer than a hundred specimens known.
The species is primarily ornamental and has no fragrance to speak of. It is a protected, endangered plant. The Hibiscus brackenridgei plant was originally threatened by grazing, but its main threat now is competition from invasive species, fire, land development and fire.
Most Hibiscus brackenridgei today are domesticated. You can buy Hibiscus brackenridgei plants in nurseries for planting in your garden. The Hibiscus brackenridgei plant available at the nursery is a subspecies native to the big island.
This species was traditionally used in leis by the native population. However, due to its relative scarcity, most leis today contain Chinese hibiscus, not Hibiscus brackenridgei flowers.
Trivia about Hibiscus brackenridgei plant
Hibiscus brackenridgei plant is the state flower of Hawaii. It received this designation in 1988.
The flowers of the Hibiscus brackenridgei plant were considered symbols of the human soul by Hawaiians. The flowers unfurled each morning, turned orange by afternoon before fading and dying. The plant produces new flowers each day.