CPC Plant Profile: `Ohi`a Lehua
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`Ohi`a Lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha var. glaberrima)

Flower of Metrosideros polymorpha var. glaberrima. Photo Credit: Oahu Army Natural Resources Program
  • Global Rank: T2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Myrtaceae
  • State: HI
  • Nature Serve ID: 152727
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 10/25/2019

Metrosideros polymorpha var. glaberrima (ʻŌhiʻa lehua) are shrubs to tall trees endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. It is distinguished from other local species by its ovate or obovate to elliptic leaves that are glabrous on lower surfaces.  

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Anna Sugiyama, Tim Kroessig
  • 10/29/2019

Collected by Tim Kroessig at Lyon Arboretum at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Miles Thomas at Division of Forestry and Wildlife in Waialae Nui Ridge in southern Koolau Mountains on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi.
Metrosideros polymorpha var. glaberrima has a wide distribution range and occurs on multiple islands. Therefore, population is stable. However, invasive weeds, ungulates, pollinator bird losses may still threaten the species, and it is known to be affected by the Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) on the island of Hawaii, which could be considered as an imminent threat.
Fruits may take months to mature but if not collected immediately after, all the seeds may be lost. Progress of fruit maturity is hard to predict, and requires the collectors to visit repeatedly to be able to collect at the right time.
For this accession, seeds were all mature and was collected at the right time. However, seeds often have low fill rate, and the initial germination was 7% on agar substrate. Seeds of this species is storable for 20+ years and seeds stored at -18ºC are scheduled to be tested for long-term viability tests in 10 years.

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Taxon Metrosideros polymorpha var. glaberrima
Authority (H. Lév.) H. St. John
Family Myrtaceae
CPC Number 46689
ITIS 529173
Common Names 'ohi'a lehua
Associated Scientific Names Metrosideros polymorpha var. glaberrima
Distribution This variety is the most widespread of the native Metrosideros and is known from all of the major islands except Kahoolawe.
State Rank
State State Rank
Hawaii SNR

Inhabiting many ecological situations, from early successional stages to dominant species of shrublands and mesic to wet forests on all major islands of Hawaiʻi except Kahoolawe. From near sea level up to 2200 m in elevation.

Ecological Relationships

ʻŌhiʻa are widely used in traditional Hawaiian culture, through symbology in moʻolelo (stories), mele (songs) and ʻoli (chants). ʻŌhiʻa serve as the sacred kinolau (physical manifestations) of multiple Hawaiian deities such as Kū (god of war and manifestations), Laka (goddess of hula), Pele (goddess of the volcano), Hiʻiaka (sister of Pele), and Kāne (god of water). ʻŌhiʻa wood was used for various ceremonial structures on heiau (temples). The red of lehua (ʻōhiʻa blossoms) was seen as a reflection of the bloodshed of war, and "lehua" was a term used for the first warrior to fall in battle. The word “lehua” still is used to describe someone who is an expert in his or her field (Sam ʻOhu Gon III, pers. comm.). The major threats to this taxon include habitat degradation by invasive plants and feral ungulates, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), a fungal disease caused by two undescribed Ceratocystis spp., which infects ʻōhiʻa sapwood. ROD is currently spreading on Hawaiʻi Island via human mediated movement, and potentially by spores mixed in with sawdust from boring beetles that may be carried in wind currents (rapidohiadeath.org, Friday et al 2015, Keith et al 2015). ʻŌhiʻa are the most numerous tree in the Hawaiian forest, having numerous ecological interactions with birds, snails, and insects that rely on this and other species of Metrosideros for food and shelter. This collection comes from a population in remnant native forest above Honolulu. Other seeds collected from in this accession are stored at Lyon Arboretum for use in future restoration and reforestation projects.

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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