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Sesbania tomentosa

This federally-listed endangered species has been known to exist on all the major Hawaiian Islands in addition to Nihoa and Neckar island. Wild population ‘ohai are estimated to be at 2,000-3,000 individuals spread across the state. This partially-woody shrub-like plant of the Fabaceae family does extremely well in the xeric landscape. Well adapted to the tropical dryland forest climate, ‘ohai grows from sea level to as high as 3,000ft elevation. Often times, we see the shorter, more prostrate variety that spreads out from a central location, but populations on Moloka’i are well known for their arborescent or tree-like forms that can grow up to 15-30 ft. tall! The leaves are pinnately compound and have a sweet smelling fragrance from the newer leaf buds!

‘Ohai will do best in well-draining, dryer soils, and is susceptible to root damage and pest infestations if over watered. Sources say that the average life-span for the typical ‘ohai is about 5-7 years, with some cultivated specimens living for 10+.

Historically, the beautiful red flowers were used in lei.

Sources and additional information can be found at:

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