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Hula Plant Photo of the Day: Māmane

April 21, 2014
beautiful māmane bloom

A māmane in bloom. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Happy Aloha Monday! Our second hula plant celebrating the Merrie Monarch Festival and National Park Week is māmane. Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla) is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, and is considered one of the most important trees in many native plant communities. It is in the pea family, and is cherished for its extremely hard wood, and its vivid inch-long yellow flowers, whose sweet nectar provides sustenance for the ‘i‘iwi and ‘apapane (endemic honeycreepers) and the endangered pālila, who feed not only on the flowers, but its dried seed pods as well. Māmane is also an important hula plant, and its flowers are used as nā wehiwehi hula – or as adornments, especially in lei wili (the twisting, winding method). It is usually combined with other lei material such as palapalai, liko lehua and pa‘iniu.

Like ‘a‘ali‘i shrubs and koa trees, māmane often survives fire and rebounds quickly by re-sprouting from its base. Its biggest threat is grazing by feral ungulates, but now that goats, sheep and pigs have been fenced out of most of the park, māmane is making a comeback. You can see māmane in the forests along Mauna Loa Road (“Strip Road”), and throughout the park in forested elevations ranging from 1,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. It can grow as high as 40 feet.

Please remember: take only photographs and memories, and leave nothing behind except footprints at your national parks!


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