'Aiea (Nothocestrum peltatum)

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Nothocestrum peltatum

ListedFebruary 25, 1994
FamilySolanaceae (Nightshade)
DescriptionSmall tree with ash-brown bark and woolly stems, leathery leaves, and densely hairy yellowish flowers.
HabitatRich soil on steep slopes in wet montane or mesic forests.
ThreatsDeer, goats, pigs, alien plants, over-collecting, limited numbers.


Nothocestrum peltatum, a type of 'aiea, is a small tree with ash-brown bark and woolly stems that grows as tall as 26 ft (7.9 m). The leathery leaves are usually peltate, measuring 2.4-9.1 in (6.1-23.1 cm) long and 1.4-3 in (3.6-7.6 cm) wide; they vary in shape from oval or elliptical to oblong. The densely hairy flowers number up to 10 per cluster. The corolla, 0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.5 cm) long, is greenish-yellow fading to yellow-orange. The orange berries are 0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.5 cm) long and contain numerous irregularly shaped seeds about 0.1 in (2.5 mm) in diameter. The usually peltate leaves and shorter leaf stalks separate this species from others in the genus.


N. peltatum generally grows in rich soil on steep slopes at elevations of 3,000-4,000 ft (914-1,219 m) in montane or mesic forests dominated by koa or a mixture of 'ohi'a and koa. Associated plants include hame, uluhe, kalia, and the more common Melicope species.


N. peltatum was known historically on Kauai from Kumuwela, Kaholuamanu, and the region of Nualolo.

The species, now known from seven populations scattered over a 5.5 by 2.5 mi (8.9 by 4 km) area of Kauai, has occurrences located near the Kalalau lookout area, in Awaawapuhi and Makaha Valleys, and in Waimea Canyon. These populations of about 23 total individuals are on state-owned land between 3,000-4,000 ft (914-1,219 m) in elevation.


Competition with alien plants and habitat degradation by introduced animals constitute the major threats to N. peltatum. Introduced plants competing with the species include banana poka, daisy flea-bane, lantana, prickly Florida blackberry, and passion fruit. Animals disturbing the habitat include feral goats and pigs, mule deer, and red jungle fowl. Although plants of this species flower, they rarely set fruit, which could be the result of a loss of pollinators, reduced genetic variability, or self-incompatibility. The species is further threatened by fire, overcollecting for scientific and horticultural purposes, reduced reproductive vigor, and stochastic extinction.

Conservation and Recovery

N. peltatum has been successfully propagated by National Tropical Botanical Garden, which also hold seeds in storage.

The recovery of this species depends on how well management practices can be implemented. The habitat of this and other Hawaiian species has undergone extreme alteration because of past and present land management practices, including the deliberate introduction of alien animals and plants and increased agricultural and recreational development. To understand the recovery problems facing this species, it is necessary to understand the long-term causes of habitat destruction.


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 http://pacific.fws.gov/

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. 25 February 1994. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for 24 Plants from the Island of Kauai, HI." Federal Register 59 (38): 9304-9329.

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'Aiea (Nothocestrum peltatum)

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'Aiea (Nothocestrum peltatum)