From Common Forest Trees of Hawaii

Cheirodendron trigynum
Ivy/Pennywort/Devil's Club family (Araliaceae)

Native species ()

ʻŌlapa, an aromatic medium-sized tree common in wet forests through the Hawaiian Islands. It is characterized by paired large leaves with 3–5 finely elliptical or constantly moving on their long slender stalks. The crushed foliage and bark have a strong odor like that of carrot or oil and a spicy or turpentine taste.

©2010 Forest And Kim Starr
A tree to 40–50 ft (12–15 ) high and 2 ft (0.6 ) in trunk diameter, with rounded open hairless throughout. Bark gray, smoothish or sometimes rough and scaly. Inner bark greenish white, slightly spicy, aromatic. Twigs stout, enlarged and ringed at green or purplish, becoming brownish, weak and brittle.

Leaves 4–8 inches (10–20 ) long, or with very slender green, purplish or brownish leaf-stalks of 2–4 inches (5–10 ), slightly flattened, enlarged and slightly clasping at base. 3–5 (7), spreading on slender slightly flattened stalks of 3⁄8–1 1⁄2 inches (1–4 ) long. Blades elliptical or 2–5 inches (5–13 ) long and 1 1⁄4–2 1⁄4 inches (3–6 ) wide: rounded or blunt with narrow curved point at straight to blunt at base, edges mostly with small curved teeth or sometimes none, thin or slightly thickened, upper surface shiny green with fine side veins, lower surface dull light green.

Flower clusters () 3–6 inches (7.5–15 ) long, with many slender forking greenish or purplish branches and many flowers spreading on, equal stalks (). Flowers 3⁄16 inch (5 ) long and wide, greenish, composed of cuplike base () 1⁄8 inch (3 ) long, of five tiny teeth, five narrow spreading petals 1⁄8 inch (3 ) long, five short and with inferior commonly 3–4-celled and 3–4 dot-like stigmas.

(berries) are round, about 1⁄4 inch (6 ) in diameter, blackish, with a ring of and stigmas at purplish flesh juice or slightly bitter. Seeds (nutlets) 3–4, more than 1⁄8 inch (3 ) long, brown.

The wood is pale yellow without distinct heartwood, moderately heavy, and moderately hard. It burns when green.

A bluish dye for coloring tapa, or bark cloth, was obtained from the leaves, and bark. eaten by native birds such as the rare ‘ō‘o, ‘ō‘u, and ‘ōma‘o. The wood was used for bird hunting spears. Distinctive leis can be made by binding or tying together the leaves.

The Hawaiian term for graceful dancers is also ‘olapa. Performers of the native hula dance were divided into two groups, the ‘ōlapa and ho‘opa‘a. The ‘ōlapa were the dancers, perhaps because their movements were like the fluttering movement of the tree leaves. The ho‘opa‘a stayed in one place, chanting and playing musical instruments.

Common and widespread through the Hawaiian Islands, mostly in wet forests at 2000–7000 ft (610–2134 ) altitude. It is the most prevalent understory tree in the forest on Hawaii in the zone within 1000–4500 ft (305–1372 ), where koa and ‘ohi’a commonly intermix.

Special areas
Haleakala, Volcanoes, Kipuka Puaulu

Height 37 ft (11.3 ), c.b.h. 4.5 ft (1.4 ), spread 28 ft (8.5 ). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (1968).

Hawaiian Islands only

Other common names
’olapalapa, mahu, kauila mahu

Cheirodendron gaudichaudii (DC.) Seem.

Many varieties of this species have been named but currently are not accepted. The generic name Cheirodendron, from Greek hand and tree, refers to the or leaves with five like fingers in a hand.

node -- The point at which there is attached growth, as in the place where each leaf is attached.

cm -- A centimeter which is about 0.4 inches.

m -- A meter is about 10% larger than a yard.

digitate -- Divided into finger-like lobes

endemic -- when restricted to a certain country or area.

The apex is the tip or the furthest point from the attachment.

terminal -- Located at the end (the tip or the apex).

Like the teeth on a saw, leaves and other surfaces can have toothed edges.

A panicle is a much-branched inflorescence. The bottom flowers in a panicle open first.

A pistil is the female structure of many flowers. It contains one or more carpels. Each carpel contins an ovary, style and stigma. The stigma receives the pollen which grows thru the style to reach the ovary.

An evergreen tree retains a large portion of its green leaves all year.

An umbel is a collection of flowers on short stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs.

In an opposite leaf arrangement the leaves come in pairs with one leaf on each side of a stem.

calyx -- the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud.

fruit -- any seed-bearing structure in flowering plants. It is formed from the ovary after flowering.

A leaf is compound when multiple leaflets are on the same stem.

canopy -- The foliage of a tree; the crown. Also the upper layer of a forest.

leaflets -- Each little leaf-like thing in a compound leaf is a leaflet.

synonym -- In botany a synonym is a species name that at one time was thought to be the correct name for a plant but was later found to be incorrect and has been replaced by a new name.

The hypanthium or floral cup is a cup-like structure formed by the fused bases of the stamens, petals, and sepals.

mm -- millimeter. About 1/25th of an inch.

ovate -- Oval, egg-shaped, with a tapering point.

stamen -- the pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower; The stamen consists of an anther supported by a filament.

palmate -- Consisting of leaflets or lobes radiating from the base of the leaf. Palmately veined, palmately lobed, palmately compound.

An ovary is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower. Above the ovary is the style and the stigma, which is where the pollen lands and germinates to grow down through the style to the ovary.