Erythrina sandwicensis

Alexis wrote today’s entry:

The series of plants endemic to the Hawaiian Islands concludes today with Erythrina sandwicensis. These photographs (photo 1 | photo 2) were taken by Forest and Kim Starr, and accessed through Wikimedia Commons.

This tree occurs on leeward slopes on all eight major Hawaiian Islands, as they prefer hot, dry, rocky environments. The species also grows on old lava fields, dry canyons and gorges. Wiliwili loses its leaves in late summer or autumn, and flowers bloom in early spring or summer, so leaves and flowers are rarely seen together. Though the flowers are commonly orange, colour polymorphism exists within the species and white, yellow, peach, red or light green flowers also occur. Additionally, the presence of lichens tends to give the wiliwili trunks an orange tinge (Pratt’s A Pocket Guide to Hawaii’s Trees and Shrubs (2006)).

Erythrina sandwicensis is known for possessing among the lightest wood of all Hawaiian trees. For this reason, native Hawaiians found it was a useful material for surfboards and outriggers for fishing canoes (Rock’s The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands (1974)). This species is the only member of Erythrina native to Hawaii. Its Hawaiian name wiliwili, meaning “repeatedly twisted”, refers to the seedpods that twist to reveal their red seeds. These are commonly strung together to make leis.

Erythrina sandwicensis
Erythrina sandwicensis

6 responses to “Erythrina sandwicensis”

  1. Diana Ferguson

    Wonderful – thank you for posting

  2. Linda

    Such a beautiful tree, and a Hawaiian endemic that is not endangered.

  3. Morris H. Brinkman

    It is quite interesting that the Wiliwili seems to have evolved to where it loses it’s foliage in the summer time primarily to assist it in
    conserving it’s internal moisture. Thanks for the write-up and the photos of a beautiful and quite interesting tree!

  4. Maureen

    Once again I am stunned by nature’s ability to produce life almost anywhere – “they prefer hot, dry, rocky environments. The species also grows on old lava fields, dry canyons and gorges.” Thank you for this series on plants from the Hawaiian Islands.

  5. Janey Pugh

    A wonderful family of trees. Birds adore the nectar and the
    flowers are beautiful.

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you for this lovely series perhaps we could visit tuscany

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