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Kokia cookei | by D.Eickhoff
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Kokia cookei

Kokiʻo, hau hele ʻula or Cooke's kokia


An endemic Hawaiian genus (Molokaʻi only; now extinct in the wild)

IUCN: Extinct in the Wild

Oʻahu (Cultivated)


Hawaiian name is from hau, an introduced hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus), perhaps by early Hawaiians. Hau hele ʻula literally means "red traveling hau."


Kokia is an endemic Hawaiian genus of four species, with one species (K. lanceolata on Oʻahu) probably extinct and the existing three critically endangered.




This species is so rare that uses by early Hawaiians are not known. However, the two very rare remaining species, Kokia drynarioides (Hawaiʻi Island) and K. kauaiensis (Kauaʻi), were also formerly used by the early Hawaiians and so this species may have had similar uses as well. The flowers were used to make spectacular lei. The flower petals made pink and lavender dyes.


Sap from the bark produced a dark red waterproof dye for fishnets. The dual-purpose resinous dye would extend the life of the fishing nets and the red color underwater is nearly invisible to fish, thus the fishermen could catch more. Medicinally, the bark was also used to cure thrush.


Kokia drynarioides and K. kauaiensis have helped to save Kokia cookei from total extinction. Kokia cookei survives by grafted scions (a shoot with a bud) on rootstock from either of its two close relatives. Efforts are being made by micropropagation and from few viable seeds to help save this species, one of the planet's rarest plants.



The generic name Kokia is derived from kokiʻo, the Hawaiian vernacular name for these species.


Botanists Otto & Isa Degener notes this regarding the name: "Lewton believes the vernacular name comes from ko-ki, " 'The extremety; the end of the tree; a very high place. The native name of the these trees, kokio, possibly relates to the habitat.' "


The sepcific epithet, cookei, was named by Otto Degener for Mr. and Mrs. George P. Cooke, long time residents of Molokai, “who have materially aided in its preservation.”


This photo appears in "Seeds of Hope" (2014) by Jane Goodall

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Taken on June 15, 2009