‘Akia is a beautiful shrub to small tree that exists in Hawaiian dryland forests from sea level to 7,500 ft. elevation. These dark green or gray-green leaved plants will have opposite leaves and depending on the species, can have small ovate or large and narrow leaves. With approximately a dozen different species of Wikstroemia native to Hawai’i, ‘akia can be grown in a range of habitat types ranging from wet forests, to bogs, to coastal dry forests. Throughout the year, the tubular yellow flowers can be seen in clusters at the tips of the branches and will develop into large orange/red fruits which are dispersed by birds.
When grown in the landscape, ‘akia makes for a great specimen plant, ground cover, or low-lying barrier hedge. Needing only minimal water, the deep green leaves of the ‘akia will make your garden appear lush and vibrant without excessive water waste! The plants prefer well-draining soil, but will thrive in many substrate types from cinder to ash.
Historically, the roots, barks, leaves, and stems were used as an aquatic poison to stun fish in shallow waters/ponds and were safe to eat because the ‘ākia is not known to be poisonous to mammals using this fishing technique. Also, ‘akia bark can be stripped and used as cordage and the flashy red fruits were used in lei.
- Lilleeng-Rosenberger, Kerin E. Growing Hawai’i’s native plants: a simple step-by-step approach for every species. Honolulu, Hawai’i: Mutual Pub., 2005.
- Wagner, Warren L., Derral R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. …