Scientific Name: Diospyros sandwicensis
Also Known As: Hawaiian Ebony/Persimmon
Endemic: All HI except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau
Description: Small to medium sized trees, 5-40 ft. tall that has a dark brown bark and pale green foliage. New leaves, called liko, are a bright pinkish-orange and are very attractive. Their flowers are tiny, about 1/8″ in diameter, and emerge at the leaf axis. Once pollinated small, oval shaped fruit that are about an inch in length develop. The color of the fruits starts off green, then change to yellow, and finally either orange or red when ripe. Each fruit can contain from 1-3 seeds. One of the most appealing features of this plant is its heartwood. Being part of the ebony family, lama wood is very hard and can be polished to reveal its deep, dark luster. It is a very slow growing plant so be patient when you plant it in the ground.
Distribution: Lama is an endemic plant found predominantly in dry-mesic valleys and ridges, occasionally it is found in the wet forest as well. They are found near sea level all the way up to around 3,600 ft. in elevation on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except for Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.
Cultural Uses: The wood of lama is used to decorate hula altars since its name is associated with enlightenment. The wood is also used to build houses for curing sick people as well as fence posts marking sacred areas.
Landscape Uses and Care: Lama can be a gorgeous tree if it is given the time to grow that large. It should be treated as a specimen plant for everyone to admire. Give it a lot of sun and not too much water. A good soaking 2-3 times a week should do. The only pests that really get to this plant are scales. Just keep an eye out for them and treat it like you would any other tree either by spraying with pesticide or wiping with fingers and soapy water. These plants are very hard to get right now in anything larger than a one gallon pot so please be patient if you decide to get one. However, we do have a few 5 gallon pots with plants that are over 3 ft tall available for $50. Don’t be discouraged by its slow growth, its beauty is well worth the wait and the slow growth results in the plant having one of the hardest and most beautiful wood of native trees.
Additional Info: There is another species of lama (D. hillebrandii) which is found only on the islands of O’ahu and Kaua’i, both are called either lama or elama.Lama