Loved by monarchs - queens and butterflies alike. That's the claim to fame of these lavender or white gems of the crown flower. Pua kalaunu was a favorite of Queen Lili‘uokalani; a quilt patterned with the flower adorns her bed at Washington Place, as the long-lasting lei adorned her neck. Crown flower is also the host plant for the monarch butterfly, whose caterpillars gobble up the thick and wooly leaves. Known to botanists as Calotropis gigantea, this large shrub and member of the milkweed family first arrived in Hawaii in 1871. It produces a white, sappy milk that contains calcium oxalate and a cardiac glycoside, two reasons why the crown flower made #5 on the "Top Ten Inquiries About Plants to the Hawaii Poison Hotline."
Lei makers often soak the flowers in cold water to remove any sap, and bathe their hands in lotion before working with the flowers. Goggles may be worn to prevent the tearing and swelling that results from squirting flowers. A good sixty to seventy flowers are needed to craft a typical lei, so you may want to plant your own Calotropis gigantea. The plants are hardy, love the sun, and can grow in a variety of soils. Propagate by plunking a branch into water for a couple of weeks. After it roots, outplant and water well once a week. With luck, it might become the crowning glory of your yard.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.