Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, this plant can be found in the dry to mesic forests of Lanai, Maui, and Hawai‘i Island from 150’ to 4000’ elevation. Among the fastest-growing plants in the dry forest, ‘āwikiwiki is a member of the legume family (Fabaceae) and can fix nitrogen within the soil providing much-needed nutrients for the plants that surround it. It can easily be identified by its three large leaflets with pointed tips. It has a beautiful purplish-pink flower that is marked with a white spot at the base of the corolla.
‘Āwikiwiki grows as a liana (woody vine) which sprawls out across the ground or up its nearest neighbor. Unlike many other vines, this plant usually doesn’t harm and smother the plants on which it climbs! This perennial species is long lived and makes a wonderful addition to the native landscape. This plant works well as a ground cover, accent plant, or trellis climber.
With its vibrant flowers, ‘āwikiwiki flowers and seeds can be used to make beautiful lei. The long vines were fashioned into fishnets, traps, and scoop nets. It is also said that when mixed with other plants, the leaf buds of ‘āwikiwiki can be used medicinally to treat itches and certain skin disorders.
- 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.