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David Eickhoff, Flickr Contributor



Botanical Name


Plant Common Name

'Ohi'a Lehua, Ohi'a, Vunga

General Description

Behold one of the Hawaiian Islands' most magnificent native plants! Ohi'a is a highly variable broadleaf evergreen. Its habit varies depending on the environment; in arid mountainous habitats it grows as a low, prostrate shrub but in lush volcanic tropical rainforests is becomes a large, upright, rounded tree. The valuable wood of ohi'a was traditionally held sacred by the Hawaiian people and used to carve images of war gods and temple icons. Today, its bright red flowers are made into leis. Ohi'a is native to many central and southwestern Pacific Islands.

The evergreen leaves of ohi'a are oval-shaped, leathery and gray-green with contrasting yellow veins and leaf petioles (stems). When they first emerge they have a felty, silvery-gray covering. Plants can bloom as often as three times a year, producing the lushest flowering displays in midsummer and in winter. Felted white buds occur in dense clusters on the branch tips and open to reveal long, whisker-like stamens of scarlet. The blooms produce rich nectar vital for Hawaii's native honeycreeper birds. There are eight naturally-occurring varieties of ohi'a across Hawaii, which produce yellow, orange, salmon or pink flowers. Leathery capsules filled with tiny seeds follow pollination. The trees' rugged-looking trunk is covered in dark sooty gray bark that forms cracks or scaly plates. When young, the tree's bark is smooth and lighter gray.

Grow ohi'a in sunny, frost-free gardens with fertile loam on the acid side. Its growth rate is fairly slow, but it will grow a bit faster if provided supplemental magnesium. This tough tropical is tolerant of heat, drought and salt spray, even surviving on volcanic slopes where noxious gases escape from the ground. Plant ohi'a as a seaside specimen shrub or garden tree. It may also be grown in a large planter or trained as bonsai.

This species has become vulnerable in its native habitats as development expands and exotic plant species invade, so refrain from harvesting wild plants. Many cultivated varieties are available. The attractive cultivar, 'Springfire', is a large landscape shrub that bears orange-red flowers, and the dwarf 'Fiji' reaches knee height and has copper-colored new foliage and red flowers.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 13

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Broadleaf Evergreen

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    15'-100' / 4.6m - 30.5m (40)

  • Width

    10'-50' / 3.0m - 15.2m (30)

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Summer, Winter, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Hawaii, Micronesia, Polynesia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type


  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    Red, Salmon, Crimson, Orange Red, Dark Salmon

  • Fruit Color

    Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green, Silver, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Silver, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green, Silver, Gray

  • Bark Color

    Gray, Slate Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture


  • Usage

    Container, Cutflower, Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Attracts

    Birds, Hummingbirds

  • Self-Sowing