There is a Hawaiian saying that goes: “He aalii au, aohe makani e hina ai,” which translates into: “I am an 'a'ali'i shrub, no wind can push me over.” Today's inspiration comes from this rugged, indigenous plant that can take a licking and keep on ticking.
'A'ali'i, or Dodonaea viscosa to botanists, is a highly variable plant in it's leaf size and shape, fruit capsule color, and the overall height of the plant. It can be found as a shrub or a tree that can reach heights of twenty-five feet or so at maturity. It's leaves are generally longer than they are wide. The a'ali'i in my yard have lanced-shaped leaves that are a rich and shiny green and feel rough to the touch. They are a bit sticky, hence the species name "viscosa." Plants are usually male or female, but can be both. Each will produce inconspicuous flowers, but only the flowers of a pollinated female plant will develop fruit, a winged capsule that is loved by lei makers. These papery capsules come in a rainbow of colors, from whitish to yellow, light green, pink, purplish and even crimson.
A'ali'i are sun-lovers, and they can tolerate strong winds and quite a bit of dryness too, so they would do great in xeriscape gardens. They range from the mountains, to the valleys, to the oceans...... well, to coastal dunes, but the point is, just about anywhere, at any elevation, even the mesic and wet elevations. They are pioneers on new lava fields, and to prove just how hardy they are, they have even been planted on many areas on Kah'oolawe, and are doing well! No pushover, this plant. So even if your thumb isn't exactly green, this may be the Hawaiian superstar for your garden.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.