A ali i Plant: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re looking for a plant that is not only hardy and drought-tolerant but also boasts of rich Hawaiian cultural significance, look no further than the Aalii plant. 

This small tree or shrub belongs to the Dodonaea viscosa species and is indigenous to Hawaii, occurring on all the island except Hokkaido. 

What is an Aalii Plant?

A ali i Plant

Native to Hawaii

The Aalii plant is native to Hawaii and is found in dry to mesic forests, thriving even in the face of strong winds. 

It is also one of the pioneer species that occur in areas where there have been recent lava flows. 

This plant is dominant over others and lifts the sod as it grows, while others will fall away. 

Its wood is durable and can stand the worst of gales, making it an excellent choice for gardens and landscapes in windy areas.


The Aalii plant can grow up to 10-15 ft in height and has a spear-shaped leaf that is 1-4 inches long. 

Its leaves are dark green and shiny and have a distinctive wood color on the underside. 

This plant produces small greenish-yellow flowers that eventually turn into seed capsules that hold many seeds.


The Aalii plant is found on all the main islands of Hawaii except for Hokkaido. It occurs from sea level to elevations of up to 7,000 feet and is a common plant in dry forest areas.

How to Grow Aalii Plant in your Garden?

Soil Requirements

The Aalii plant requires well-draining soil and a sunny position. It grows best in nutrient-poor soils and is a great addition to gardens and landscapes in dry areas.

Watering Needs

Once established, the Aalii plant is drought-tolerant and requires only a little water. However, if you’re planting it in an area with prolonged dry seasons, you may need to water it occasionally to keep it healthy.

Pruning Techniques

Pruning can be done as needed to control the growth of the Aalii plant. Older stems can be cut back to the ground level to stimulate new growth.

What are the Uses of Aalii Plant?

Traditional Hawaiian Use

The Aalii plant has great cultural significance in Hawaii, and its leaves are used in making leis. It is also used as a hedge or a specimen plant in traditional Hawaiian gardens.

Medicinal Benefits

The Aalii plant has medicinal properties and is used in traditional Hawaiian medicine to treat various ailments. The roots of the plant are said to treat coughs, while a decoction of the leaves is used as a diuretic.

Dye Production

The fruit capsules of the Aalii plant can be used to produce a dye that ranges in color from yellow to pink or red.

What are the Interesting Facts about the Aalii Plant?

Hawaiian cultural significance

The Aalii plant holds great cultural significance in Hawaii and is considered to be a symbol of strength and endurance. 

Its wood is used in making spears, while its leaves and fruit capsules are used in making leis and dyes.

Lava Resistance

The Aalii plant is one of the few plants that can survive on recent lava flows. It is a pioneer species that establishes itself and dominates over others in these areas.

Aalii Fruit Capsules

The Aalii plant produces small greenish-yellow flowers that eventually turn into seed capsules. These capsules hold many seeds and can be used to produce a dye.

How to Identify Aalii Plant?


The Aalii plant is a small tree or shrub that has wood-colored leaves with a distinctive dark green, shiny color on the top. It has small greenish-yellow flowers that turn into seed capsules.

Leaves and Fruit Capsules

The leaves of the Aalii plant are spear-shaped and are 1-4 inches long. The fruit capsules hold many seeds and can be used to produce a dye.

Similar Species

The Aalii plant can be mistaken for other species of hopbush, such as Dodonaea eriocarpa, which is found in Australia and New Guinea.

FAQs about ‘A’ali’i Plant

Q: What is ‘A’ali’i Plant?

A: ‘A’ali’i plant (dodonaea viscosa) is a shrub or small tree indigenous to the main Hawaiian Islands except for Kaua’i and Ni’ihau. It is a drought-resistant plant that can grow up to 25 feet tall.

Q: What is the meaning of the name ‘A’ali’i?

A: The name ‘A’ali’i comes from the Hawaiian language and means “wind-resting” which refers to its ability to withstand strong winds and harsh environments.

Q: Is ‘A’ali’i plant commonly used in lei making?

A: Yes, ‘A’ali’i plant is traditionally used in lei making. It is especially popular for making tall lei because of its minimal foliage, pale green color and strong stems.

Q: Is ‘A’ali’i plant only used for making traditional Hawaiian lei?

A: No, ‘A’ali’i plant has other uses besides lei making. It is also used as bait for fishing, for making house posts and even for medicinal purposes. In the past, wood was used to make spears and gaffs for fishing.

Q: Does ‘A’ali’i plant have male and female flowers?

A: Yes, ‘A’ali’i plant has separate male and female flowers on different plants which means it is dioecious.

Q: Can the wind push the ‘A’ali’i plant easily?

A: No, ‘A’ali’i plant is a sturdy plant and can withstand powerful winds because of its shape and hold. In fact, the shape of ‘A’ali’i plant has inspired the Hawaiians to boast a meaning of “hold my own even in the face of difficulties”.

Q: Can you find ‘A’ali’i plants on all the islands in Hawaii?

A: ‘A’ali’i plant is commonly found in all the main islands except for Kaua’i and Ni’ihau where it is not indigenous.

Q: What are the identifying features of A ali i plant?

A: ‘A’ali’i plant has slender branches with pale green leaves and small greenish-yellow flowers. The leaves are narrow, 2-4 cm long with a pointed tip and rigid upper surface.

Q: Is A ali i plant resistant to drought?

A: Yes, ‘A’ali’i plant is drought-resistant and can grow in tropical and arid environments. It can also survive prolonged periods of drought.

Q: Does the A ali i plant have any cultural significance for the Hawaiians?

A: Yes, ‘A’ali’i plant has cultural significance for the Hawaiians. It was traditionally used for making beautiful lei and was highly valued among the Hawaiians. It was also used in canoe building and in various cultural ceremonies.


The Aalii plant is a hardy species that is native to Hawaii and boasts of great cultural significance in the state. 

It is a great addition to gardens and landscapes in dry areas and has medicinal properties that have been used in traditional Hawaiian medicine. 

Its intricate appearance and unique range make it a great choice for gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike. 

To learn more about the Aalii plant and its conservation in Hawaii, visit the Bishop Museum or consult with experts such as Rauch and Wagner, who specialize in native Hawaiian plants and conservation efforts.

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