Alahe’e (Psydrax odorata)

Hawaiian Name: Alahe‘e
Botanical name: Psydrax odorata
Family: Rubiacae (Coffee Family)
Status: Indigenous
Where found: All islands except Ni‘ihau and Kaho‘olawe
Water/Light: Dry to moist, with full sun exposure
Elevation range: 30 to 3,500 feet
Height: 10 to 20 feet, with a 10 foot spread

Notes: Alahe‘e is locally renowned for its wonderfully fragrant flowers and, within a landscape, can be used to replace the non-native mock orange. In old Hawai‘i, a black kapa dye was produced using the leaves of alahe‘e. These leaves were also an ingredient in a medicinal remedy to cleanse the blood. From the hard wood, early Hawaiian fashioned farming tools such as ‘ō‘ō (digging sticks), fishhooks, shark hooks (makau manō) and dip nets for catching fish and crab. Alahe‘e is drought and wind tolerant.

Related to Gardenia and noni, alahe’e has deep green, glossy leaves and lightly scented flowers. The wood was once used for ’o’o (digging sticks) and spears. Remnant trees still cling to life on the extremely dry lava flows south of Makena, and it thrives in cultivation with minimal care.

Photo: Starr

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A Few Native Hawaiian Plants from the MNBG Collection