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METROSIDEROS collina

Image of Metrosideros collina

David Eickhoff, Flickr Contributor

Family

Myrtaceae

Botanical Name

METROSIDEROS collina

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.

Characteristics

  • 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

    Loam

  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • 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

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Platy

  • Usage

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

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Hummingbirds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes