Plants of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Scientific Name Vaccinium reticulatum Sm.
Family Ericaceae

Other Names 'Ohelo, 'ohelo 'ai (transl. "edible `ohelo")
Status Endemic
Distribution & Habitat Common in disturbed sites, 640-3,700 m, on Maui and Hawai'i, rare on Kaua'i, O'ahu, and Moloka'i.  

This species is found on lava flows, ash dunes and cinder beds or on exposed sites such as alpine or subalpine shrublands.  It is less common in mature or stable plant communities such as grasslands, wet forests or bogs (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

Locations in this Guide South-West Rift Zone, Devil's Throat, Mid-Elevation Woodland, Observatory, Sulphur Bank, Mauna Loa Strip Road, Top of the Strip Road
General Appearance
These are are very conspicuous plants because they are often have bright clusters of red berries.  

The plants themselves are often short shrubs with aerial shoots that are stiffly erect.  The plants range from 10 to 130 cm tall (reaching 200 cm tall on occasion) (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

In dry, stressed areas, small adult individuals have above-ground parts that are often little more than a few short shoots that are covered with leaves and a large mass of ripe fruit.  Other areas have rounded, bushy shrubs that are more woody and which are often found with masses of dead, leafless stems.  The major stems grow mostly from the base (Stone and Pratt 1994: 141).

South-West Rift Zone
Keamoku Flow (Mauna Loa Strip Road) South-West Rift Zone
This shrub is often a major common component of dry areas.  It is also found on new lava flows (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

South-West Rift Zone

Top of the Strip Road
Leaves
The leaves range from 1 to 3 cm long and wide and are persistent, ranging in shape from ovate to obovate (rarely eliptical) (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

The older leaves are generally dull green.  New leaves, growing at the tips of the stems, may be bright red.

In some situation, the leaves may also have patches of red.

The margins of the leaf may be sharply serrate to entire (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

Keamoku Flow (Mauna Loa Strip Road)
Flowers & Fruits
The bell-shaped flowers are highly variable both in dimension and color.

The flower colors range from pink, red, yellow and yellow with red stripes to yellowish green.  The corolla is urn-like to cylindrical, 8 to 12 m long (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

The flowers often hang in what appear to be clusters (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

On close inspection, many of the flowers appear to be waxy.

Sulfur Banks

South-West Rift Zone

South-West Rift Zone
Sulfur Banks Mauna Loa Strip Road (top of the road)
Near Observatory Near Observatory
Near Observatory Near Observatory
Near Observatory Near Observatory

Mauna Loa Strip Road (top of the road)

Top of the Strip Road
The pictures below show the developing fruit.
Mid-Elevation Woodland

Mid-Elevation Woodland

The fruit (berries) range in color from red to reddish purple or dull black, or yellow, orangish yellow, yellow-green, or pink. They are 8 to 14 mm in diameter (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

South-West Rift Zone

Mid-Elevation Woodland

South-West Rift Zone

South-West Rift Zone
South-West Rift Zone Mauna Loa Strip Road (top of the road)
South-West Rift Zone South-West Rift Zone

South-West Rift Zone

South-West Rift Zone
south-West Rift Zone South-West Rift Zone

Keamoku Flow (Mauna Loa Strip Road)

Keamoku Flow (Mauna Loa Strip Road)
Phenology Flowers and fruits throughout the year, with peak flowering season between April and September.  Peak berry season is June through September  (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595)
Natural History This is often a member of the pioneer community on new lava flows.  You find it growing in these stressful habitats more often than in established communities such as grasslands or wet forests (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

Distribution of the seeds is attributed to the nene (Nesochen sandvicensis) (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

Conservation This species is used heavily on both Maui and Hawai`i to make jams and jellies (Wagner, et al. 1990: 505).
Miscellaneous Photos
Other Notes This is a highly variable species.  There have been some attempts to divide it into several distinct species but such studies have been complicated by difficulties in crossing the plants since they have a strong tendency to self-pollinate (Wagner, et al. 1990: 595).

The berries are edible.  They may be harvested in the Park for personal (non-commercial) use with a limit of one quart per person per month.


References
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Last Updated: 07/14/05

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