Plants of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Scientific Name Cheirodendron trigynum (Gaud.) A. Heller
Family Araliaceae (Ginseng family)

Other Names 'Olapa (transl. "flash")
Status Endemic
Distribution & Habitat 'Olapa grows in mesic to wet forests, between 310 - 2,190 m, on all of the main islands except Kaho'olawe (Wagner, et al. 1990: 227).  It is more common in areas like the `Ola`a forest than in the Kilauea Caldera region (Stone and Pratt 1990: 179).  Look for it along the road near Thurston Lava Tube.

It often grows in wet areas, like the `ola`a forest, as an abundant epiphytic understory tree (Stone and Pratt 1994: 173).

Locations in this Guide Ola`a Forest, Thurston Lava Tube, Kipuka Puaulu
General Appearance
These are forest trees that grow up to 15 m tall.

It is a common tree in the understory of the rainforest.  It is easily spotted with its bright yellow-green leaves. It isn't equally abundant, however (Stone and Pratt 1994: 179) through the forest as are some of the other understory trees.

Carlquist (1980: 335) identifies this species as frequently being epiphytic although on the sites described in this Guide, it appears to be growing rooted in the ground most of the time.

Look for it at Thurston Lava Tube.  There are several trees near the entrance but you'll probably have to look for them.  Once you recognize its distinctive color leaves, then you'll also see it along the Crater Rim Drive as you travel near Thurston Lava Tube.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

This small tree is starting as an epiphyte on a tree fern.

Olaa Forest
The leaves come in clusters of 3 to 5 leaflets (with up to 7 in a cluster) with the central leaflet the largest.  

The leaves are one-half to nearly as wide as long (Wagner, et al. 1990: 227).

The leaves are a lighter, brighter green color than the other tree species in the areas where they are found.  Remembering this will help you find them as you look at the understory trees in the forest.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Flowers & Fruits
The flowers are perfect, 5-7 mm across, with 5 or 6 purple petals.

They are tiny, rather inconspicuous, green and purple and the petals are not showy.

Look for the flowers at the tips of the branches.


Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube (along highway)
The fruits are globular berries with a single seed (called a "drupe") that is up to 7 mm diameter.

The shape of the small fruits is round to 3-sided.  They are a brown to purplish color.

Olaa Forest
Natural History
Conservation Seedlings and saplings are reported (Stone and Pratt 1994: 179) to be part of the diet of feral pigs and wild cattle. Cattle are even known to knock down mature trees to eat the bark (Stone and Pratt 1994: 179).
Miscellaneous Photos
Other Notes Wagner, et al. (1990: 228) identify this as a highly polymorphic species.

References Wagner, Warren, Derral Herbst and S. H. Sohmer 1990. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai`i. University of Hawaii Press.
Links to Other Sites

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Last Updated: 08/05/03