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Koki`o Ke`oke`o - White Hibiscus

Koki`o, Hibiscus arnottianus,
is an endemic white hibiscus. It is a small tree which grows wild at altitudes of 400 to 3,000 feet on most of the islands. It is occasionally cultivated and can be seen on the Palace grounds. The plants are constantly in bloom.

It can grow to a tall shrub 10 to 25 feet high, with a dense crown of foliage. Veins and stems of the smooth oval leaves are red on our plants. The flowers have an exquisite fragrance, with delicate white petals, surrounding a red stamen. (The extremely rare subspecies, immaculatus, is native to Moloka'i and has a white stamen.)

Hibiscus petals were used by the Hawaiians as a source of dye. Koki`o ke`oke`o is much used in hybridizing new horticultural varieties. It was more common in the past than today, and there are many references to koki`o in old Hawaiian mele (songs) and stories.