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The Flowering Plants of Hawaii (beta)

Part 28 Meliaceae - Menispermaceae - Molluginaceae


neem tree
Azadirachta indica. Neem tree. A Starr image.
toona tree
Toona ciliata. A Starr image.

A mainly tropical family, Meliaceae comprise 650 species in 50 genera. Three of these genera are represented in the Hawaiian Islands, Azadirachta, Melia and Toona, the latter two with a single naturalized species each. Perhaps the most well known member of the family is the neem tree, Azadirachta indica (see image), widely grown in Asia for its highly prized oil. The accompanying photograph of neem tree was taken in a nursery setting; it does not appear to have become naturalized in the islands.

Melia azedarach (see images), commonly known as Chinaberry or Pride of India in English, `ïnia or `ïliania in Hawaiian, has become naturalized as has Toona ciliata (see image), the so called Australian red cedar. Melia is a native of southeastern Asia and has been widely cultivated. Toona, a fast growing species, has been widely planted in mesic to wet disturbed areas. Needless to say, it is neither related to true red cedar nor is it a conifer. See article on this site concerning common names.

Chinaberry tree
Melia azedarach. A Starr image.
Melia azedarach Ripening Chinaberries.


Cocculus orbiculatus

The only member of Menispermaceae, the moonseed family, present in the Hawaiian Islands is the indigenous Cocculus orbiculatus (it was reported in the Manual as C. trilobus) (see image). This plant provided some cordage for Hawaiian house construction. Hawaiian names for this sprawling vine are huehue, hue, hue`ie, and `inalua. It grows in a variety of habitats including dry forest where this specimen was seen (on Läna`i). Huehue occurs on all of the islands except Kaho`olawe, and enjoys a natural range that extends from the Himalayas, through southeast Asia, Malesia, and into the Pacific. There are records of this plant being used to make a twine used for grass house construction.


A single species of Molluginaceae, the carpetweed family, occurs in the Hawaiian Islands, Mollugo cerviana, whose common name, following the floor covering theme, is threadstem carpetweed. This weedy plant is apparently naturalized on Hawai`i in low elevation, dry sites. I have not seen it in nature and do not have a photograph. The family consists of 100 species in 11 genera (Mabberley, p. 552) with a center of diversification in South Africa.

April 30, 2012

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Dicot Families:

Monocot Families:

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