top of page
  • Kevin Hara

The ʻAiea Tree



ʻAiea is the name of the city where Pali Momi Medical Center is located. ʻAiea is also the name of a tree that is only found in Hawai’i. The ʻAiea Tree was once bountiful in the ʻAiea region. Today, it is near extinction.

The ʻAiea Tree encompasses four species of the genus Nothocestrum. N. breviflorum which is found on Hawai’i Island, N. latifolium which is found on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, and N. peltatum which is found on Kauai and Oahu are classified as endangered species. N. longifolium which is found on Main Islands is classified as a threatened species.

ʻAiea grows to a height of thirty feet. It has a gnarled trunk and a light brown to gray-white bark with upright branches. ʻAiea has sparse thick oval or maple leaves at branch tips measuring up to 2-3/4 inches wide and 8 inches long. ʻAiea has small yellow-green clustered flowers which have a lemony scent considered to be one of the most fragrant in Hawai’i. It fruits as small orange red berries.

ʻAiea wood has been used for canoes, ship gunwales and roof thatching. Its berries were eaten. ʻAiea was also used for medicinal purposes. The leaves, bark and tap root were ground and heated and used for the treatment of abscesses.

Today, ʻAiea is rare, being a victim of its natural habitat destruction. Lumbering, ranching, rats and feral goats and pigs have damaged the ecosystem. Over 90% of Hawaiʻi’s native dry forests are now gone. Though once abundant in the ʻAiea Ahupua’a, the ʻAiea Tree is now hard to find. The ecosystem disruption and ʻAiea Tree decline has had widespread ramifications. The Blackburn sphinx moth which has relied on ʻAiea to lay its eggs is now also endangered.

The ʻAiea Tree is symbolic of our healthcare providers. Just as Hawaiʻi’s natural ecosystem has changed, so has there been changes in our healthcare ecosystem. Like the ʻAiea Tree, our healthcare providers are precious and cherished. If not cared for, they too will fall by the wayside of an unconducive ecosystem. Our healthcare providers need nurturing, or they too will wither away.


Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page