Without grazing animals to predate on them, many endemic Hawaiian plants put less energy into creating defenses such as thorns or unpleasant tastes. Thus Hawaiian mints, such as this Stenogyne, don’t have a minty taste or smell. However, as you can see in the photo, they do have the square stems characteristic of the mint family. This trailing mint prefers filtered light and moist areas, so I’m planting it under some ‘ohi’a trees in the backyard. The plant I bought has one long vine so I can get a few cuttings, too - I’m getting more than one plant for my money. Hooray!
Hawaiian Pokeberrry, Phytolacca sandwicensis
Who says native plants aren’t colorful? The first time you see Hawaiian Pokeberry, or Popolo ku mai, it will stop you in your tracks. I first saw these attractive, rose pink blooms and deep purple berries on a hike through Kipuka Puaulu, a mesic forest in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I love the deep purple venation on the leaves, too. It likes full sun it needs moist soil, so I’m planting it in a sunnier, open area farther from the house. I’ve been told it reseeds itself, so I’m looking forward to having a nice stand of pokeberry someday.
Look, ma, no ow-ees. The endemic raspberry, known as ‘akala in Hawaiian, certainly has prickles, though it isn’t as nasty as the introduced varieties. The flower is dark pink and the fruit is usually large and tart, ranging from deep red to bright yellow. Hawaiian raspberry grows only at high elevations, usually in mesic and wet forests, and in woodlands, so maybe I'll have a chance at coaxing this one to take root here in Volcano Village at 4,000 feet. The kalij pheasants will probably find it unpleasant to peck at it despite its wimpy prickles, but looks like some chewing insects have already nibbled at the leaves; I’ll have to keep an eye on this transplant under the ‘ohi’a trees, too.