CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Kokia kauaiensis

K. Wood

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Kokia kauaiensis

Common Names: 
hau Hele'ula, Kauai koki'o
(Rock) Degener & Duvel
Growth Habit: 
Tree, Shrub
CPC Number: 


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Kokia kauaiensisenlarge
Photographer: K. Wood
Image Owner: National Tropical Botanical Garden

Kokia kauaiensisenlarge
Photographer: D. Ragone
Image Owner: National Tropical Botanical Garden

Kokia kauaiensis is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 

Kokia kauaiensis

There are four described species of Kokia, a genus endemic to Hawaii. Of these four, one has been presumed extinct since the late 1800’s, and the other three are clinging to life with varying degrees of success. One of them, Kokia cookei, survives only in botanical gardens as a few individuals that have been grafted onto root stock of Kokia kauaiensis in order to survive (Woolliams et al. 1980). Thus, in relation to its relatives, K. kauaiensis is doing relatively well, but itself consists of only 6 populations totaling less than 100 individuals (USFWS 2001).

K. kauaiensis, a member of the hibiscus family (Malvaceae) is a small tree that grows from 5 to 10 meters (16-33 ft) tall. Its leaves have 7 to 9 lobes and circular in shape (12 to 25 cm wide) with a heart-shaped base. The broadly egg-shaped floral bracts are 4 to 6 centimeters (1.5-2 in) long and hairless, except for the base. It has curved petals 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 in) long are twisted at the base, and densely covered with yellowish silky hairs. The fruit is an egg-shaped capsule with egg-shaped seeds covered with reddish, wooly hairs up to 10 millimeters long.

This long-lived perennial species is distinguished from others of this endemic Hawaiian genus by the length of the bracts surrounding the flower head (brick red in color), number of lobes, and the width of the leaves. The length of the petals and the length of the hairs on the seeds are also distinctive (USFWS 1998).

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Kokia kauaiensis
  K. kauaiensis typically grows in diverse mesic forest between 350 to 660 meters (1,150 to 2,165 ft) elevation.

Associated species of K. kauaiensis include Bobea sp. (ahakea), Acacia koa (koa), Diospyros sandwicensis (lama), Hedyotis sp. (manono), Pleomele sp. (hala pepe), Isodendrion sp. (aupaka), Pisonia sp. (papala kepau), Nestegis sandwicensis (Olopua), Syzygium sandwicensis (ohia ha), Antidesma sp. (hame), Alyxia olivaeformis (maile), Pouteria sandwicensis (alaa), Streblus pendulinus (aiai), Canthium odoratum (alahee), Dicranopteris linearis (uluhe) , Hibiscus sp. (aloalo), Flueggea neowawraea (mehamehame), Melicope sp. (alani), Diellia laciniata (palapalai lau lii), Tetraplasandra sp. (ohe ohe), Chamaesyce celastroides (akoko), Lipochaeta fauriei (nehe), Dodonaea viscose (aalii), Santalum sp. (iliahi), Claoxylon sandwicense (poola), and Metrosideros polymorpha (ohia).

  K. kauaiensis is endemic to Kaua’i and was historically found at seven scattered populations on northwestern part of the island. This species is now found in six populations on Kaua’i, Paaiki Valley, Mahanaloa Valley, Kuia Valley, the western side of Kalalau Valley, Pohakuao Valley, and Koaie Stream (USFWS 1998).

Number Left
  Number of Populations: 6 (USFWS 2001)
Number of Plants: <100 (USFWS 2001)


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Hawaii S1 4/11/2002  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  K. kauaiensis is a hermaphrodite and is insect-pollinated (Sakai et al. 1995).

  Threats to K. kauaiensis include competition with and habitat degradation by invasive alien plant species, including Lantana camara (lantana), Passiflora ligularis (sweet granadilla), Rubus rosifolius (thimbleberry), Kalanchoe pinnata (air plant), Psidium cattleianum (strawberry guava), and Triumfetta semitriloba (Sacramento bur).

Substrate loss from erosion, habitat degradation and browsing by feral goats and deer, and seed predation by rats also threaten K. kauaiensis.

Current Research Summary
  Over 50 plants of K. kauaiensis has been cultivated in botanical gardens by seed and tissue culture.

Current Management Summary
  Kaua’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife has fenced in the population of K. kauaiensis in Paaiki Valley (USFWS 1998) to protect it from feral goats and deer.

The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) currently has ex situ holdings of 160 seeds in its seed bank, which represents three out of the six populations. In addition, there are five plants that represent two out of the six populations growing in the nursery and 35 individuals representing five of the six populations in the grounds of the botanical garden. Four out of the 35 plants in the grounds have an unknown locality.

Research Management Needs
  1. Remove all alien plants inside completed exclosures. Although fences protect against feral goats, alien weed and rat control should be practiced.
2. Map the genetic diversity in the surviving populations of K. kauaiensis.
3. Conduct pollination biology and seed dispersal studies on K. kauaiensis.
Recommendations derived from M.H. Chapin, M. Maunder, and USFWS (1998).

Ex Situ Needs
  1. Establish secure ex situ stocks with full founder representation.
2. Develop proper horticultural protocols and pest management for K. kauaiensis.
3. Survey ex situ holdings and conduct molecular fingerprinting.
Recommendations derived from M.H. Chapin and M. Maunder.


Books (Single Authors)

Wagner, W.L.; Bruegmann, M.M.; Herbst, D.R; Lau, J.Q.C. 1999. Hawaiian Vascular Plants at Risk: 1999. Honolulu, HI: Bishop Museum Press Honolulu.

Wagner, W.L.; Herbst, D.R.; Sohmer, S.H. 1999. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawai'i--Revised Edition. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press. 1853p.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Electronic Sources

NatureServe. (2008). NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. [Internet].Version 7.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. Accessed: (June 17, 2008).

USFWS. (2001). Unpublished data. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817. Accessed: 2001.

Journal Articles

Ellshoff, Z.E. 1991. The Rarest Hawaiian Members of the Hibiscus Family. National Tropical Botanical Garden: The Bulletin. 21, 3: 7-12.

Rock, J.F. 1919. The Hawaiian genus Kokia. A relative of the cotton. Botanical Bulletin of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture and Forestry. 6: 1-22.

Sakai, A.K.; Wagner, W.L.; Ferguson, D.M.; Herbst, D.R. 1995. Origins of Dioecy in the Hawaiian Flora. Ecology. 76, 8: 2517-2529.

Skottsberg, C. 1944. Vascular plants from the Hawaiian Islands IV. Phanerogams collected during the Hawaiian Bog Survey 1938. Acta Horticultura Gothobotanica. 15: 275-531.

USFWS. 1976. Proposed Endangered Status for 1700 U.S. Plants. Federal Register. 41: 24523-24572.

USFWS. 1995. Proposed endangered or threatened status for nineteen plant species from the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Federal Register. 60, 185: 49359-49377.

USFWS. 1996. Determination of endangered or threatened status for nineteen plant species from the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Federal Register. 61, 198: 53070-53089.

USFWS. 2000. Determinations of Whether Designation of Critical Habitat is Prudent for 81 Plants and Proposed Designations for 76 Plants From the Islands of Kauai and Niihau, Hawaii; [Proposed Rule]. Federal Register. 65, 216: 66807-66885.

USFWS. 2002. Revised Determinations of Prudency and Proposed Designations of Critical Habitat for Plant Species from the Islands of Kauai and Niihau, Hawaii. Federal Register. 67, 18: 3940-4098.

Woolliams, K.; Degener, O.; Degener, I. 1980. Kokia cookei Deg....then there were two!. Notes Waimea Arboretum & Botanical Garden. 7, 1: 2-7.

Newspaper Articles

Shapiro, Treena. 2002 Tuesday, June 18, 2002. Rare blossom in bloom. Honolulu Star-Bulletin; Honolulu, HI.

TenBruggencate, Jan. 1985 Sunday, February 24. Kokia trees: rare beautiful, fighting for survival. The Sunday Star-Bulletin and Advertiser; Honolulu, HI. A-14.


St. John, H. 1981. Rare endemic plants of the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu, HI: Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. p.74.

USFWS. 1998. Kauai II: Addendum to the Recovery Plan for the Kauai Plant Cluster. Portland, OR: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.84+.

Wood, K.R.; LeGrande, M. 2002. Biological Inventory of Upper Pohakuao Valley North & South Falls Region, Na Pali Coast State Park, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, with information concerning the distribution and abundance of Flueggea neowawraea (Euphorbiaceae) & Oceanodroma castro (Hydrobatidae). Special Report Prepared for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks. p.21.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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