Scientific Name: Achyranthes splendens var. rotundata
Also Known As: ‘Ahinahina; Hinahina; Hinahina Ewa
Description: Although the Hawaiian name for this plant is not historically known, it is often referred to today as ‘Ahinahina, Hinahina or Hinahina Ewa. The reason for these names primarily has to do with its color. In Hawaii, many plants that are silvery in color are called hinahina or have the word hinahina in its name.
This ‘ahinahina is very silvery in color, has soft rounded leaves and can reach a height of about six feet tall. Its flowers (called spikelets) are arranged on soft spikes that protrude six to fourteen inches above the plant. They are very eye-catching and attractive in a unique way.
Distribution: Naturally, this plant is extremely rare and today on O’ahu is restricted to the coastal coral plains of Kalaeloa near Ewa, hence the name Hinahina Ewa and the mid-elevation dry forest of Makaha Valley as well as out at Ka’ena pt. Its range was probably much larger in the past, but the habitat in which it evolved in, the native lowland dry forest, has been greatly impacted over the last 200 years. Today this endemic plant, like many of our other native plants found here and nowhere else in the world, is now recognized as an endangered species. Right now we are in the middle of doing a 14 acre restoration at Kalaeloa removing all of the alien plants like koa haole and kiawe and replacing them with the few remnant native plants still found there, one of which is this plant. In fact just yesterday with the help of 17 Kamehameha school students and 2 teachers we were able to out plant over 1400 native plants, 800 of them being ‘ahinahina.
Landscape Use and Care: ‘Ahinahina love full sun just as mentioned above, all the plants that are called hinahina are silvery in appearance, this is an evolutionary adaptation to living in extremely sunny and/or hot areas. The silvery color is usually derived from tiny hairs that cover the surface of the leaves to reflect intense sunlight keeping the plant from losing excess moisture. When watering the plant, its best to soak the ground and then let it dry out for a couple of days before watering again, watering less as the plant becomes established. Too much water and/or shade will result in the plant becoming more green looking and not so silvery. This can also “soften” the plant making it more desirable for pests like mealy bugs and scales.
‘Ahinahina can also be pruned or chopped back if it gets larger than desired, but it will form a naturally round shape on its own. Plant it near dark backdrops like green or red ti leaves or lava rocks to really show off its silvery appearance. Also, make sure that there aren’t a lot of ants in the area as they may bring mealy bugs that attack this plant. If you notice them on your plant, then simply cut the affected area off and control the ants using granular pesticide.
Cultural Use: The spikes and new leaves of this plant are used in Wili and Haku Lei.Ahinahina