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Flowers at Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii (USA). June 13, 2004.
Origin and Habitat: Portulaca molokiniensis is a rare species of portulaca endemic to a few coastal sites Molokini, Puʻukoaʻe Islet (Maui) and Kamōhio Bay, Kahoʻolawe.
Habitat and ecology: It grows in volcanic tuff, detritus at base of sea cliff and on steep rocky slopes from about 90 to about 1100 metres and in sand near the seaside on the arid islets of Molokini and Pu'ukoa'e and at Kanhio Bay on Kaho'olawe off the west coast of Maui. Though many think of the Hawaiian islands as lush and moist, the collection sites on these islands are on the leeward, rainshadow side and are extremely dry.
- Portulaca molokiniensis Hobdy
HAWAIIAN (ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi): ʻIhi, Ihi
Description: Portulaca molokiniensis is a stout, upright growing succulent that branches at or below the soil line to form a small shrub to 30 to 50 cm tall by about as wide with each stem being about the thickness of a cigar. It bears 2.5-5 cm long rounded pale green succulent leaves that are arranged neatly in 4 distinct rows towards the branch tips. A cluster of small yellow cup-shaped flowers forms at the ends of thick stalks that arise from the centre of the leaf rosettes, but it is the foliage of this plant that really makes it unique. Portulaca molokiniensis is an attractive plant for cultivation.
Stems: Thick, round, corky, up to 2 cm in diameter at the base. Older stems with a pale, corky layer of secondary growth, usually branched at or slightly beneath the ground.
Leaves: Rounded, pale green, up to 5 cm in length. They often grow closely spaced in four rows along the stems and tend to cluster at the ends of the branches.
Flowers; Small, lemon yellow, cup-shaped subtended by leafy bracts form at the ends of stout non-leaf bearing stems that rise above a terminal rosette of leaves.
Blooming Period: Cultivated plants have sporadic to continuous blooming periods. Each flower opens for one day. If there are several flowers on each stalk, flowering can last for several days.
Fruits (capsules): About 6 mm shaped like pointed eggs and filled with dark-brown to black, slightly sticky seeds. The capsules split open when ripe.
Taxonomy: Portulaca molokiniensis is closely related to Portulaca lutea, a plant more widely distributed throughout the Pacific islands, and probably derived from it, but differs in its conspicuous stout vegetative growth and larger leaves, and especially in its dense headlike clusters of flowers and its spinose seeds. Portulaca molokiniensis was first collected by Charles N. Forbes on Molokini in February 1913, it was identified as Portulaca lutea. It was collected once again as Portulaca lutea in the 1920's and then not documented again until collections made in the late 1970's and early 1980's where the distinctiveness of the plant was noted and it was officially described as a new species by Hawaii forester Bob Hobdy in 1987.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Bornhorst, Heidi L. “Growing native Hawaiian plants: a how-to guide for the gardener.” Honolulu: The Bess Press. p. 30-31. 1996.
2) Koob, Gregory A. “The Molokini 'Ihi: a Hawaiian native succulent with ornamental value.” Hawai'i Horticulture 1 (11):10-12. 1998
3) National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG). “'Ihi. In Native Hawaiian plant information sheets.” Lawai, Kauai: Hawaii Plant Conservation Center. National Tropical Botanical Garden. Unpublished internal papers. 1992.
4) Wagner, Warren L., Darrel R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. “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. 1072. 1990
5) Native Plants Hawaii. “Portulaca molokiniensis” 2009 University of Hawaii. <http://nativeplants.hawaii.edu/plant/view/Portulaca_molokiniensis> Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
6) Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database “Portulaca molokiniensis” 12 March 2000 <http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/hawnprop/plants/por-molo.htm> Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
7) San Marcos Growers contributors “Portulaca molokiniensis - 'Ihi ” San Marcos Growers <http://www.smgrowers.com>. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
8) Michael Walther “A guide to Hawai'i's coastal plants” Mutual Pub., 2004
9) Umberto Quattrocchi “CRC World Dictionary of Plant Nmaes: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology” CRC Press, 17/Nov/1999
10) David Liittschwager, Susan Middleton, Environmental Defense (Organization) “Remains of a rainbow: rare plants and animals of Hawai'i” National Geographic Society, 18/Sep/2001
Portulaca molokiniensis Photo by: K.k. Agrawal
Flowers at Kanaha Pond, Maui, Hawaii (USA). January 18, 2002. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Habit at Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii (USA). July 16, 2005. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Habit at Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii (USA). July 04, 2004. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Silhouette side leaf venation at Kanaha Pond, Maui, Hawaii (USA). January 18, 2002. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Seed capsules at Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii (USA). July 16, 2005. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Flower at Hoolawa Farms Haiku, Maui, Hawaii (USA). December 13, 2006. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Habitat at Maui Nui Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii (USA). March 02, 2005. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr
Cultivation and Propagation: Portulaca molokiniensis is an attractive plant for cultivation but not been widely cultivated. It requires ample sunlight and well-drained soils. This is an extremely attractive plant and should make a beautiful and unique specimen as a container planting or in a garden setting in a raised bed or raised planter. Although it survives difficult conditions, plants will produce more lush growth and flowers when provided sufficient moisture and rich soils.
Soils: it grows well in poor, sandy or gravelly soils. The soil must be very well-drained.
Repotting: Plants prefer to be root bound and will do well as long as soil is remaining in the pot.
Fertilizer: An application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements every six months. Foliar feed monthly or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one half to one third of recommended strength.
Exposure: Needs full sun to flower.
Waterings: Drought tolerant, but flowers best with regular watering. Don't water with overhead irrigation, which can damage the flowers. Once plant is well established, allow them to dry out between waterings. This plant naturally grows in very harsh, dry conditions and does not like wet feet, that is constant moisture in the root area. Not a recommended plant for someone who loves to water!
Hardiness: Even if listed by some as hardy to -6° it is best to avoid any frost as these plants in the winter are very prone to rot, especially in combination of wet and cold - likely this plant would be best suited in such a well drained soil that this is not an issue or in a location protected from receiving winter moisture.
Pests and diseases: It is prone to attacks by slugs, ants, mealy bugs, scale, thrips, spider mites, aphids, and root mealy bugs. Fungal rot can be a major problem, so do not let water stay on the surface. These succulent plants need very well drained soil.
Garden Uses: Good for poor dry soils where many other plants struggle. Edging or ground cover for beds, rock gardens or along walks. It is a great potted plant for the often harsh conditions on full sun and windy porches and hanging baskets. If kept in containers, use cement, terra cotta, or unglazed ceramic pots which are preferred over plastic ones. These types of potting containers tend to breath better and allow potting mix to dry out quicker, essential for the health of these xeric plants. Too, the weight of the pots will help these succulents from toppling over in windy conditions and as they grow larger in the pots.
Maintenance: Plants can be pruned or sheared if they begin to look straggly for a neater appearance and to promote fuller growth.
*Propagation: By Seeds or cuttings. To clean the seeds, air dry them at room temperature in a bowl or paper bag. Carefully rub the capsules through a strainer with the appropriate size mesh. The seeds should fall through leaving the debris in the strainer. Sow the seeds on the surface of a pre-moistened, sterile, well draining mix. Do not cover the seeds with soil.Germination takes about 2 to 3 months. In warm climates, Portulaca molokiniensis may self-seed, stablished plants can also be propagated by tip cuttings. Rooting hormones and mist systems are not necessary. Cuttings should be 5 to 12 cm long and the lower leaves should be removed. Sterile potting mix can be used as a rooting medium. The cuttings should be watered daily. They will root in a couple of weeks.
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