Milo (Thespesia populnea)

Hawaiian name: Milo
Botanical name: Thespesia populnea
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
Status: Undetermined (Indigenous or Polynesian-introduced)
Where found: Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, Ni‘ihau & Kaua‘i
Water/Light: Dry, with full sun exposure
Elevation range: 0 to 900 feet
Height: About 40 feet, with a spread equal to its height

Notes: In old Hawai`i, milo was commonly found around sunny coastal homes, cultivated as a shade tree. Milo wood has an attractive grain and was skillfully crafted into poi bowls, plates, food utensils and canoe paddles. The fruit yields a yellow-green kapa dye. Cordage (rope) can also be made from milo. Bright yellow flowers with maroon centers open in the morning hours, and turn to various shades of orange later in the day. Milo is drought, salt, wind and heat tolerant.

Photo: Starr

‘Ōlelo Noeau:
He milo ka lā‘au, mimilo ke aloha.
Translation: Milo is the plant; love goes round and round.
Meaning: Said of the milo tree when its leaves, blossoms, or seeds were used by kahuna who practice hana aloha sorcery (love magic).

From Work Done by Whit Germano to Catalog Native Hawaiian Plants

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A Few Native Hawaiian Plants from the MNBG Collection