The Flowering Plants of Hawaii
Part 33 Onagraceae Oxalidaceae Papaveraceae
Onagraceae, the evening primrose family, are represented on the islands by 10 naturalized species in four genera, although one of the species could have been a Polynesian hitchhiker. The evening primrose genus, Oenothera, has three species on the islands, one of which, O. stricta, (see image) is common in the Saddle Area of the Big Island where its large yellow flowers offer a stark contrast to the shiny black lava. This species also occurs in similar high elevation sites on East Maui (Haleakalä).
Some of the most popular decorative members of this family belong to the genus Fuchsia, commonly called lady’s eardrops. A shrubby species native to South America F. magellanica (see image) can be found growing in wet forest in the Kïlauea area on the Big Island; it is particularly abundant in the vicinity of the Thurston Lava Tube. One of the most stunning fuchsias introduced to the islands is F. boliviana (see image), which has become naturalized in the Köke`e area on Kaua`i. where it can be seen sharing trees with the invasive banana poka (Passiflora sp.) (see image). As its name implies, this species is native to south America; it is a fairly recent addition to the Hawaiian flora having been reported first in 1960.
The wood sorrel family, Oxalidaceae, is represented on the islands by two species of Oxalis, the naturalized O. corymbosa (seen by some as O. debilis var. corymbosa) (see image), a native of South America, known in English as the pink wood sorrel, and in Hawaiian as `ihi pehu; and O. corniculata (see image). There appears to be some uncertainty as to whether O. corniculata is a native species or if it was a Polynesian introduction. That it was on the islands before the appearance of Europeans (Pre-contact) is clearly indicated by its seeds having been found in an adze quarry on Mauna Kea known to have been abandoned before contact.
Papaveraceae, the poppy family, consist of 43 genera with 820 species the majority of which occur in northern temperate areas, with a few genera scattered on other continents. The genus Papaver includes P. somniferum, the opium poppy, from which the alkaloid morphine is derived, as well as numerous attractively pigmented poppies of horticultural value. The much sought after blue poppy belongs to the genus Meconopsis; the California poppy, common roadside plant in much of that state, is Eschscholzia californica.
The genus of interest to us here, Argemone, commonly known as the prickly poppy, consists of about two dozen species most of which are native to the Americas. Two species occur in the Hawaiian Islands, A. mexicana, (see image). a pantropical weed; and the endemic A. glauca (see images). Argemone glauca, known locally as pua kala, kala, naule, and pökalakala, occurs in drier habitats on all of the main islands. Two subspecies are distinguished on the basis of number of prickles on the capsules, much higher in var. decipiens, which occurs in the saddle area and western side of the Big Island; fewer in var. glauca (see image), which occurs in dry coastal areas of the other islands. Hawaiians used the sap from this plant as a pain killer for toothache, which is in accord with the use of other members of the poppy family as a source of analgesic and narcotic preparations.
A comparatively new member of the family on the islands is Bocconia frutescens (see image). Bocconia consists of 10 species (Mabberley, p. 110) native to warm areas of the Americas. It is known commonly as the plume poppy or as tree-celandine (Celandine is the common name of a plant in the genus Ficaria, Ranunculaceae, but it is not related to Bocconia). The plume poppy, a native of Central and South America and the West Indies, is listed as a noxious weed by the State of Hawai`i. It has become naturalized on Maui and on the Big Island in disturbed places, such as roadsides. It is also a serious pest in Eucalyptus forests on the Big Island (D. M. Benitez and D. Saulibio, 2007). Travelers passing through the airport on Moloka`i can read all about this plant and look at pictures at various stages of growth, along with warnings and suggestions of what to do if it is found on the island.