The beautiful milo (Thespesia populnea) has a lot going for it, but let me start by highlighting its often overlooked flowers: they are like sunrise and sunset on a tree. They last only a day, beginning as a buttery yellow flower with a red center, then the flower turns reddish orange with the setting sun. The blossoms then fall to the ground, and brownish-grey seed capsules form. This daily transformation helps me overlook the fact that milos are constantly shedding their leaves and seed capsules; a bit messy, but well worth the bother. The emerald green leaves are shiny and shaped like a heart. Milos do well in a variety of soils, and are found from coast to elevations of about one thousand feet. They can take the tough stuff, like wind and salt spray as long as they get a good dose of sun; there are milos on Kaho'olawe making it work!
Milos are in the mallow, or Malvaceae family, as are its cousins: hau, 'ilima, and ma'o. It is likely an indigenous plant, but was also brought by the early Polynesians in their canoes. It can grow to about thirty feet or more, and its wood was often used for making vessels, such as poi bowls, ʻumeke ʻai. It has a beautiful grain, did not flavor the food placed in the bowl, and was relatively insect-free, making it a good choice. It was also used for cordage and canoe hulls, and the fruit was used in making a yellow-green dye. A hearty tree with blossoms of sun and useful to boot! I have read that milo trees surrounded the home of King Kamehameha I in Waikiki, and that beautiful image seems just right.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.