A swathe of Beach Naupaka grows in black sand near Apua Point in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Beach Naupaka (Scaevola sericea or Scaevola taccada) is relatively common here, often seen in coastal areas because of its salt tolerance. Dwarf Naupaka (Scaevola coriacea), on the other hand, is on the federal endangered list. It used to be seen on all the main islands, but these days it’s only seen on Maui and then not in many places. The flowers of Dwarf Naupaka are a little different and the leaves are considerably smaller, just one to two inches in length.
These endemic plants were spotted alongside one of the fishponds at Mauna Lani, on the South Kohala coast, by a friend who knows a lot about native plants. When he told me about them, I headed down to take a look and get some photos. I agreed with his identification and got a confirmation on Hawaii Plant ID.
It’s likely that the plants by the fishpond aren’t naturally occurring, but were deliberately planted, though by who or why is not clear. Still, it’s encouraging that at least one small pocket of these extremely rare plants still exists on the island.
This native plant (scientific name Scaevola sericea) has curious half flowers, with five downward-facing petals. And it’s popular with ants, at least by my observation.
It does well along the coast because it’s salt tolerant and is often planted for erosion control and reclamation projects.
For more information about this and other Hawaiian flowers, go to wildlifeofhawaii.com/flowers/.