Euphorbia olowaluana

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Euphorbia

Species

olowaluana

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Koko
  • Kōkōmālei
  • ʻAkoko
  • ʻEkoko

Hawaiian Names

  • Akoko
  • Ekoko
  • Koko
  • Kokomalei

Common Names

  • Alpine sandmat

Synonyms

  • Chamaesyce olowaluana
  • Euphorbia lorifolia var. gracilis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Endemic

Endangered Species Status

Federally Listed

Plant Form / Growth Habit

No data available.

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

No data available.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

No data available.

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Additional Fragrance Information

The pungent flowers of ʻakoko have been described as smelling like bad breath. [Kim Starr, United States Geological Survey-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit]

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

No data available.

leaf Pests and Diseases

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Soil must be well drained

Yes

Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Tolerances

  • Drought
  • Wind

Soils

  • Cinder

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

No data available.

Habitat

  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

The beatiful tree ʻakoko is from West Maui and Hawaiʻi Island. At 2000 feet this plant is found as a shrub, while at lower elevations (700 ft.) it is a 25-foot tree with a trunk diameter of 10 inches. [3]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻAkoko (Chamaesyce) belong to the Spurge or Euphorbia family (Euphorbiaceae).

There are sixteen native species of ʻakoko (Chamaesyce spp.)--all of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. A number of ʻakoko are either vulnerable, rare or endangered, with two considered extinct. Several have beautiful foliage and range in size from very prostrate sub-shrubs such as Chamaesyce degeneri to Chamaesyce olowaluana, which are nearly 30-foot trees--perhaps the tallest in the entire genus of 250 species worldwide!

The two other native members in Euphorbiaceae are poʻolā (Claoxylon sandwicense) and a native tree euphorbia (Euphorbia haeleeleana). Some well known non-native relatives are the Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis), kukui (Aleurites moluccana), poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), cassava (Manihot esculenta), and the Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) from which latex comes.

This ʻakoko (Chamaesyce celastroides) is the by far the most variable and widespread of all the Hawaiian Chamaesyce. The erect capsules (fruits) distinguish them from other species, except C. herbstii and C. rockii, which have distinctively larger fruits.

Etymology

The former generic name Chamaesyce is derived from the Greek chamai, on the ground, and sykon, fig, perhaps in reference to the low habit of most species and the fig-like apperance of the capsules.

The current genus is Euphorbia, and is classically supposed to have been named for Euphorbus, a physician to the king of Mauretania in the first century A.D. (C.E.).

The specific epithet olowaluana is named after Olowalu, West Maui, one of the locations where this species is found.

Hawaiian Names:

The name ʻakoko comes from the Hawaiian word koko for blood. They get their name from the red, or blood-colored, seed capsules appearing as drops of blood on the plant. [1,5]

Background Information

This species of 'akoko (Chamaesyce olowaluana) is important habitat for at five species of native yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus spp.) most of which are exteremely rare and endangered. One is even named Hylaeus akoko. [2]

Modern Use

Because of the abundance of this species at one time, there was a plan to consider using the copious amounts of yellowish latex from these ʻakoko trees as a low grade commercial rubber. Notes an early source from 1912: "While on an exploration trip at Puuwaawaa, North Kona, Hawaii is one of the richest botanical sections in the Territory, the writer found a species of Euphorbia (E. lorifolia)* which produced a tremendous flow of latex when bruised or cut." The authors continue by saying that the ʻakoko are "very abundant and scattered over an area of more than 5000 acres ...in some areas so thick it is impossible to ride through them. The ground is covered densely with seedlings and thousands upon thousands of plants cover that area." One ton of the crude latex was shipped to a New York firm for about 70 cents per pound for experiemental purposes. [4]

* Foonote ours. Though the authors use Euphorbia lorifolia var. gracilis, it is now correctly identified as Euphorbia olowaluana.

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice Krauss, page 138.

[2] The Xerces Society http://www.xerces.org [Accessed 2/10/10]

[3] "The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands" by J.F. Rock, pages 50, 261.

[4] "Euphorbia lorifolia, a Possible Source of Rubber and Chicle" by William McGeorge & W. A. Anderson, page 98.

[5] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 516.

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This record is as complete as we can generate for this plant profile at this point. Please email nativeplantshawaii@gmail.com if you wish to contribute to the data. Please include sources and references for all data submitted