CPC Plant Profile: Koki`o
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Plant Profile

Koki`o (Kokia drynarioides)

Full view of mature specimen. Photo Credit: Peter Van Dyke ©
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • State: HI
  • Nature Serve ID: 128783
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

The Hawaii tree cotton is one of four species in the genus Kokia and the only one found on the island of Hawaii. The sap of this incredibly rare tree has been used by native Hawaiians to make red dyes for fishnets and its bark was used to treat thrush. In the early 1900's, botanists became concerned about the survival of this species and collected several pounds of seed that was later distributed to various gardens and arboreta for germination. (USFWS 1994) Despite this, koki'o has become increasingly rare so that there are now less than ten trees known to exist in the wild. This decline has had severe impacts on organisms that rely on the species, such as the now- endangered nectar drinking honeycreepers which depend on these trees for food. (PIRG 1998)

Participating Institutions
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to the leeward side of the island of Hawaii. The number of wild trees of this species is down to fewer than 10. Perhaps the biggest threat to the survival of the species has been the invasion of its habitat by alien fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum), which has contributed to an increase in the size and frequency of wildfires in the region. Other threats include feral goats and grazing by cattle.

  • 01/01/2010

As stated by the USFWS recovery plan (1994), threats include: Cattle browsing and trampling Rodent seed predation Competition with invading exotic species, especially fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum), which has contributed to an increase in the s

  • 01/01/2010

There are less than ten trees left in the wild in three small populations. (PIRG 1998)

  • 01/01/2010

None known.

  • 01/01/2010

This species is cultivated by a number of gardens and arboreta in Hawaii.

  • 01/01/2010

Acquire management rights for lands essential to the continued existence of the species Terminate grazing leases on this land and remove livestock from it Fence the area to protect the trees from neighboring domestic and feral animals Initiate and maintain controls for the insects and rodents that eat t the seeds Remove fountain grass Monitor the population

  • 01/01/2010

Maintain a cultivated population to preserve the existing gene pool Seed bank seeds Artificially propagate trees for reintroduction programs


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Taxon Kokia drynarioides
Authority (Seem.) Lewton
Family Malvaceae
CPC Number 2386
ITIS 21976
Common Names hau Hele'ula | Hawaiian tree Cotton | koki'o | hau-hele'ula | Hawai'i treecotton
Associated Scientific Names Kokia drynarioides | Kokia rockii
Distribution Endemic to the leeward side of the island of Hawaii. (USFWS 1994)
State Rank
State State Rank
Hawaii S1

Native dry forests on the island of Hawaii that occur on rough lava with a thin, highly drained soil layer at elevations of 455 to 1915 meters. (USFWS 1994) Associated species include: Chenopodium oahuensse, Dodonaea viscose, Dracaena hawaiiensis, Erythrina sandwicensis, Mezoneuron kavaiense, Myrsine lanaiensis, Nothocestrum latifolium, Pennisetum setaceum, Nototrichium sandwicense, Planchonella auahiensis, Reynoldsia sandwicensis, Sophora chrysophylla, and Xylosma hawaiiense var. hillebrandii. (USFWS 1994)

Ecological Relationships

This species is a food plant for the nectar drinking honeycreepers of Hawaii, which have also become endangered as a result of declining numbers of Koki'o. (PIRG 2002)

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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