'Aiea (Nothocestrum breviflorum)

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Nothocestrum breviflorum

ListedMarch 4, 1994
FamilySolanaceae (Nightshade)
DescriptionStout tree with papery-textured toothless leaves and greenish yellow flowers.
HabitatLowland dry forests; montane dry or mesic forests, often on substrate.
ThreatsResidential development; competition from alien plants; browsing by cattle; fire; limited numbers.


Nothocestrum breviflorum, a type of 'aiea, is a stout tree 33-39 ft (10-12 m) tall, with a trunk up to 18 in (45.7 cm) in diameter. It has deciduous, alternate, stalked, oblong or elliptic-oblong, thick, and papery-textured toothless leaves that are 2-4.7 in (5.1-11.9 cm) long and 1.2-2.4 in (3-6.1 cm) wide. Numerous bisexual and radically symmetrical flowers are clustered at the ends of the short spurs (branches with much-shortened internodes) on individual stalks 0.2-0.4 in (5.1-10.2 mm) long. Each flower consists of a 0.2-0.4 in (5.1-10.2 mm) long, four-lobed tubular calyx split on one side and a greenish-yellow four-lobed corolla that barely projects beyond the calyx. The fruit, a somewhat spherical or oblong orange-red berry about 0.2-0.3 in (5.1-7.6 mm) in diameter, is enclosed by the calyx. Seeds have not been observed. This species can be distinguished from others of this endemic Hawaiian genus by (1) the leaf shape, (2) the clusters of more than three flowers arranged on the ends of short branches, and (3) the broad fruit enclosed by the calyx.

N. breviflorum was observed in flower during February 1970, and in fruit and flower during January 1912 and December 1991. No other life-history information is currently available.


Habitats of N. breviflorum are lowland dry forest, montane dry forest, and montane mesic forest dominated by Metrosideros polymorpha, Acacia koa, and/or Diospyros sandwicensis. Individuals occur on a'a lava substrates at elevations ranging from 260-6,000 ft (79-1,829 m).

Santalum (iliahi), Caesalpinia kavaiensis (uhiuhi), Erythrina sandwicensis (wiliwili), and several other taxa grow in association with N. breviflorum. Other endangered taxa, including Colubrina oppositofolia, Kokia drynariodes, Hibiscadelphus hualalaiensis, and Delissea undulata, grow in the area where N. breviflorum occurs in the Puu Waawaa region.


Historically, this species was found only on the island of Hawaii in the southern portion of the Kohala Mountains; along the northern slope of Hualali; and along the eastern, southern, and western slopes of Mauna Loa.

Since 1975 six populations have been identified on the western side of the Big Island from South Kohala to Kamaoa-Puueo. Four populations consist of one to four plants each, and numbers are unknown for two populations. In addition, plants may have been cultivated at Kipuka Puaulu for ornamental purposes. Six individuals may survive at this site, provided they were correctly identified. This species has not been seen recently at Naulu and is probably extirpated from that location.


N. breviflorum is negatively affected by cattle and sheep grazing and by the introduction of alien plant taxa such as Schinus terebinthifolius, Pennisetum setaceum (fountain grass), Lantana camara, and Leucaena leucocephala (koa haole). The introduction of these invasive taxa may afford enough fuel to support a destructive fire. Increased residential and recreational developments have reduced available habitat. Population and individual numbers of N. breviflorum are few enough to face random extinction or reduced reproductive viability.

Conservation and Recovery

The National Tropical Botanical Garden has germinated seeds and propagated the taxon. This species germinates and grows well in the greenhouse setting. However, individuals succumbed when outplanted. Six individuals were found at the Kipuka Puaulu site, provided they were correctly identified.

Propagation and maintenance of ex situ genetic stock is necessary. Populations should be protected from cattle via fencing or other means, and competing alien plant taxa, specifically Schinus terebinthifolius, lantana, and fountain grass, should be controlled. The habitat of this species should be protected from residential and recreational development in sufficient area to allow for full recovery of the species.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species Eastside Federal Complex
911 N.E. 11th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97232-4181
(503) 231-6121

Pacific Remote Islands Ecological Services Field
300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-122
P. O. Box 50088
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850
Telephone: (808) 541-1201
Fax: (808) 541-1216


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 4 March 1994. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plant; Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 21 Plants from the Island of Hawaii, State of Hawaii." Federal Register 59 (43): 10305-10325.

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'Aiea (Nothocestrum breviflorum)

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'Aiea (Nothocestrum breviflorum)