College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources logo

Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database

database logo

Wikstroemia uva-ursi
Alternative Botanical Names
Diplomorpha uva-ursi
Wikstroemia foetida
Wikstroemia monticola

Common Names
Molokai Osmanthus
Potential or Traditional Uses
Lei (Flower or Seed)
Photo not available
Wikstroemia uva-ursi is a densely branched prostrate or sprawling shrub growing up to 5 feet tall. In cultivation, it generally grows about 3 feet tall and can get up to 10 feet in diameter. The young branches are gray, yellow, or reddish brown. The leaves grow with two leaves opposite each other on the branch, overlapping, and are dark green or grayish on the upper surface and lighter green underneath. They are oval to round and usually under 1 inch long.

Wikstroemia uva-ursi flowers irregularly throughout the year, but produces fewer flowers when the plant has mature fruit. The tubular yellow to yellow-green flowers are unisexual, either male or female, and less than 1/2 inch long. (Criley 1999; Rauch 1997; Wagner 1990)

Habitat and Geographic Range
There are 12 Wikstroemia species endemic to the Hawaiian islands. Wikstroemia uva-ursi occurs in scattered populations on windy coastal locations, dry ridges, open hillsides, ledges, 'a'a lava, and other dry, open habitats from 10 to 1,400 feet on Kaua'i, O'ahu, Moloka'i, and Maui. (Wagner 1990)
Propagation by Seeds
Wikstroemia uva-ursi can be propagated by seed, but in some years few fruits are produced. Culliney and Koebele feel that ripe fruit of Wikstroemia are more often available in the fall and winter. The fruit of Wikstroemia uva-ursi is 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter, oval berry ranging in color from bright red to dark crimson. The berry generally contains a single seed.

Remove the soft outer pulp from mature fruits by rubbing them against the side of a strainer or sieve under running water. Lilleeng-Rosenberger suggests ripening the fruit in a plastic bag to soften the pulp. After this, the seeds can be removed from the pulp more easily. Rather than removing the pulp, Culliney and Koebele suggest cleaning the seeds by putting them in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for 1/2 hour. After the seeds are removed from the bleach solution, they should be soaked in tap water for a day using just enough water to cover the seeds. They report germination times of 1 month or more using this treatment.

Other sources recommend soaking the seeds in hot water for 24 hours and indicate that seeds will germinate in 21 days to 3 months. However, Lilleeng-Rosenberger's notes indicate that a batch of seeds which was soaked in cold water for 4 days germinated in 14 days. The germination percentage for this batch of seeds was 79%.

Culliney and Koebele suggest sowing the seeds on the top of moistened vermiculite and covering them with a layer of moistened green sphagnum moss. As soon as the seeds begin to germinate, remove most of the moss layer.

Other sources recommend using a well drained potting mix such as 2 parts perlite to 1 part sterile potting soil. The seeds should be covered with 1/4 inch of mix and watered daily. (Bornhorst 1996; Culliney 1999; Lilleeng-Rosenberger 1996; Lilleeng-Rosenberger 1998; Mew 1987; NTBG 1994; Rauch 1997; Wagner 1990)

Propagation by Cuttings
Wikstroemia uva-ursi can be grown from cuttings, but they require special treatment. Moriarty reported only 50% rooting percentage for untreated tip cuttings. Rauch suggests that propagation is more successful from nursery-grown plants than from plants in the landscape.

Herring found that wounding alone did not increase rooting rates. Matsuda and Criley reported that this percentage could increased to 80 to 100% by wounding and use of rooting hormones. Their work was done with 5 to 6 inch long recently matured tip cuttings. These cuttings were wounded by making 2 or 3 one-quarter inch long incisions in the base of each cutting or by the removal of several lower leaves along with a strip of bark.

Liquid indolebutyric acid (IBA) at a rate of 3,000 parts per million (ppm) and solutions of Dip'N Grow and water at ratios of 1 to 9 and 1 to 4 all produced 80 to 100 percent rooting in 6 weeks. Dust or powder formulations of 3,000 ppm IBA such as Hormex No. 3 were not as effective as the liquids. Formulations of naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) were ineffective on unwounded cuttings.The cuttings were stuck in vermiculite and rooted under an intermittent mist of 6 seconds every 2 minutes.

Culliney and Koebele, on the other hand, do not recommend the use of rooting hormones for Wikstroemia cuttings. Their procedure is to remove the lower leaves from 4 to 6 inch long tip cuttings. They recommend against removing any more leaves than necessary or reducing the size of any of the remaining leaves. Each cutting is then inserted into a pot filled with moistened medium consisting of one part vermiculite and one part perlite. The pots are put into a humidity chamber such as a covered aquarium or clear plastic cup with a lid. The humidity chambers must be kept out of direct sunlight to avoid overheating the cuttings. The cuttings should be misted lightly with a spray bottle once a day. (Criley 1998; Criley 1999; Culliney 1999; Matsuda and Criley 1980; Herring 1996; Moriarty 1975; Rauch 1997)

Propagation by Division
Not applicable.
Propagation by Air Layers
Wikstroemia uva-ursi can be propagated by air layering. (Bornhorst 1996)
Propagation by Grafting
No information located to date.
Propagation by Tissue Culture
No information located to date.
Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1990. Low-growing native Hawaiian plants for your garden. The Bulletin of the National Tropical Botanical Garden 20 (4):86-89.

Bornhorst, Heidi L. 1996. Growing native Hawaiian plants: a how-to guide for the gardener. Honolulu: The Bess Press. p. 25-26.

Criley, Richard A. 1998. Propagation of indigenous and endemic ornamental Hawaiian plants. Combined Proceedings of the International Plant Propagators' Society 48:669-674.

Criley, Richard A. 1999. Aloha Hawai'i. American Nurseryman 190 (3):50-61.

Culliney, John L., and Bruce P. Koebele. 1999. A native Hawaiian garden: how to grow and care for island plants. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 16-17, 45-46.

Herring, Eileen. 1996. Unpublished paper on effect of wounding and auxin on rooting of Wikstroemia uva-ursi: Department of Horticulture, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lilleeng-Rosenberger, Kerin. 1996. Plant propagation notebook. Unpublished materials: National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Lilleeng-Rosenberger, Kerin. 1998. Propagation techniques for native Hawaiian plants. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 37 (2):33-35.

Matsuda, Thomas K., and Richard A. Criley. 1980. Rooting response of Wikstroemia uva-ursi to various root-promoting substances. Horticulture Digest (55):2-3.

Mew, Randal K. T. 1987. Cultivation and propagation of selected coastal plants at the Waikiki Aquarium. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 26 (2):27-32.

Moriarty, Dan. 1975. Native Hawaiian plants for tropical seaside landscaping. The Bulletin of the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden 5 (3):41-48.

National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). 1994. 'Akia. In Native Hawaiian plant information sheets. Lawai, Kauai: Hawaii Plant Conservation Center. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Unpublished internal papers.

Rauch, Fred D., and David Hensley. 1997. Akia, Ornamentals and Flowers, OF-12. Honolulu: Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. (Also available as a PDF file at Free CTAHR Publications.)

Wagner, Warren L., Darrel R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. 1990. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawai'i. 2 vols., Bishop Museum Special Publication 83. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press. p. 1290.

Search Database

Browse Database --
By Botanical Name
By Common Name

Other Native Hawaiian Plant Sites

Other Plant Propagation Sites

Database Bibliography

Database Home Page

Other CTAHR Databases


Last updated:
7 October 2001

Please send comments and suggestions to