CPC Plant Profile: Mehamehame
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Plant Profile

Mehamehame (Flueggea neowawraea)

Closeup of pedicels bearing ripening fruits. Photo Credit: S. Perlman
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Phyllanthaceae
  • State: HI
  • Nature Serve ID: 155165
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 07/09/1992

Flueggea neowawraea (Phyllanthaceae) is the only native species in the genus present in the Hawaiian Islands. It is assessed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Less than 50 individuals remain in the wild and there are no signs of recruitment.  It is a hardwood tree used by Hawaiians to make weapons. It has buttressing roots and can reach thirty meters high and two meters wide. It is most often dioecious (bearing either male or female flowers) requiring cross-pollination in order to produce viable seed. However, there is evidence that this species is occasionally monoecious, as cultivated, isolated trees have been reported to bear fruit. (Wood et al. 2002). Its flowers, both male and female, have green sepals with brownish tips (USFWS 1999). Fruit are indehiscent capsules (Wagner et al.). 

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  • 01/01/2010

The two major threats to this species in the wild are Xylosandrus compactus, the black twig/coffee borer and the ambrosia fungus that X. compactus introduces when it bores into the pith of young tree stems for its larva to feed on. When the pests move on the fungus stays and continues to travel down the stem causing more damage. Rose Beetles, Popillia japonica, also a threat to F. neowawraea because they can damage the remaining leaves on the tree inhibiting photosynthesis. Other threats to the plant and its habitat are other non-native plants and animals.

  • 01/01/2010

Number of Populations: 30 (USFWS 2001) Number of Plants: 70 (Wood et al. 2002)

  • 01/01/2010

There is ongoing research that is surveying all wild living individuals of F. neowawraea that still remain on Kaua'i to determine their health and sex (NTBG and DOFAW). In addition, DNA extraction studies (University of Hawai'i) have shown that individuals from Kaua'i are more genetically variable from the other island populations (including O'ahu, Maui, and Hawai'i). During the research, it was also found that some wild trees have a greater resistance to the coffee twig borer than other (Wood et al. 2002).One plant of F. neowawraea has been fenced on the Navy's Laulualei Naval Reservation (O'ahu) to protect it from cattle and feral pigs. A program of invasive plant removal within the exclosure is ongoing. Seed pathogen abatement, ex situ seed longevity and regeneration interval studies are ongoing (Sloss and Wolkis, 2017).

  • 01/01/2010

The US Army Garrison Hawai'i, O'ahu Training Areas, Natural Resource Management Final Report had been completed by the Army Environmental Staff. This report consists of detailed management plans and descriptions of completed actions for each endangered species including F. neowawraea that occurs on Army land. The Army Environmental staff has also conducted intensive rat control around the Keawaula population in order to collect and propagate (USFWS 1999). The Lyon Arboretum has attempted micropropagation but has not yet been successful (USFWS 1999). In April, 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that a designation of critical habitat was prudent for this species (USFWS 2002).

  • 01/01/2010

Recommendations for Future Actions (USFWS, 2013):

  • Surveys / inventories - Survey known occurrences on Kaua'i and Hawai'i Island to determine current status and numbers of individuals
  • Captive propagation for genetic storage and reintroduction - Continue to collect fruit from all wild and any reintroduced individuals that set seed to add to the genetic diversity of the ex situ material.
  • Ecosystem-altering invasive plant species control - Control introduced invasive plant species around wild and outplanted individuals.
  • Ungulate exclosures - Construct fences around all naturally occurring and reintroduced individuals to control feral ungulates.
  • Reintroduction / translocation - Continue reintroducing individuals into protected suitable habitat within historical range.
  • Alliance and partnership development - Initiate planning and contribute to implementation of ecosystem-level management and restoration to benefit this species.
  • Population biology research
    • Investigate techniques to improve natural recruitment, including development and implementation of methods to control black twig borer and other pests.
    • Assess genetic variability within extant populations.
    • Study populations with regard to population size and structure, geographical distribution, flowering cycles, pollination vectors, seed dispersal agents, longevity, specific environmental requirements, limiting factors, and threats. 

  • 01/01/2010

The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) currently has ex situ holdings of over 3,000 seeds from nine accessions secured in their Seed Bank & Laboratory. In addition, there are 43 plants representing 12 accessions growing in NTBG McBryde and Limahuli Gardens.


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Taxon Flueggea neowawraea
Authority W. Hayden
Family Phyllanthaceae
CPC Number 2945
ITIS 502636
Common Names Mehamehame
Associated Scientific Names Neowawraea phyllanthoides | Drypetes phyllanthoides
Distribution Historically, F. neowawraea is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands of Kaua'i, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Maui, and Hawai'i islands. It is now restricted to the Wai'anae Mountains of O'ahu, the southwestern slopes of Haleakala on Maui, and Kaua'i (USFWS 2009, Wood et. al. 2001).
State Rank
State State Rank
Hawaii S1

It is found in dry to mesic forests up to 1,000 meters in elevation (Wagner et al. 1990, Kawakita and Kato 2017).

Ecological Relationships

Flueggea neowawraea is presumed to be insect-pollinated (Sakai et al. 1995). Associated species of F. neowawraea include lama (Diospyros sandwicensis), hame (Antidesma platyphyllum var. hillebrandii), iliahi (Santalum freycinetianum var. pyrularium), kopiko (Psychotria mariniana), alahe'e (Psydrax odoratum), hao (Rauvolfia sandwicensis), kukui (Aleurites moluccana) , ahakea (Bobea sp.), olopua (Nestegis sandwicensis), and aiai (Streblus pendulina) (USFWS 1999, Wood et. al. 2001).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Insects Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting
Oahu Army Natural Resources Program Hawaii Reinforcement 2003
Oahu Army Natural Resources Program Hawaii Reinforcement 2009
Oahu Army Natural Resources Program Hawaii Reintroduction 2013

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