Mamaki

Mamaki

Scientific Name: Pipterus albidus

Endemic: All of HI except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau

Description: Large shrubs or small trees 5-15 feet tall that generally have light green leaves with whitish undersides and either green pink or reddish colored veins.    The leaves range in size from about four inches up to a foot across and are also fairly rough to the touch. Flowers are insignificant in appearance, but develop into fleshy white fruit which are connected directly to the stem usually where the leaf connects to the stem as well. A single plant can have hundreds of fruit at a time and each fruit contains many tiny brown seeds from which new plants will develop from.

Distribution:   This endemic plant is found in mesic to wet forests and valleys on all the main islands except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau.

Landscape Use and Care: Mamaki does well as an under story shrub or in semi-shaded areas. It also does fine in full sun with moderate watering. As with most plants, mamaki also does better in well drained soils. Few pests bother this plant but spider mites may colonize under the leaves, wiping them off with soapy water should take care of it (See Additional Info).

Cultural Uses: Mamaki was used to make kapa (clothing) when the softer, more preferred wauke (paper mulberry) wasn’t available. Today as well as in the past, mamaki is commonly used to make a mild but invigorating and healthy tea.

Additional Info: If caterpillars are present, be careful about spraying the plant because those caterpillars may be the larvae of the native Kamehameha Butterfly who uses the mamaki as a host plant, you also don’t want to spray it with pesticides if you plan on using the plant for making tea anyway. As for the butterfly, the adult looks similar to a non-native monarch butterfly but with more bold designs and a fuzzier body. However, the Kamehameha butterfly is becoming increasingly rare because not as much mamaki is available for this insect to thrive on, but on the contrary, more monarch butterflies are seen because more people are planting its favorite host plant the crown flower which is also not native to Hawaii, so by planting mamaki in your garden not only will you be helping to increase the number plants but also the number of Kamaehameha butterflies, not to mention that you will have a cool and useful plant in your yard.

Mamaki