Hawaiian Name(s): ‘ala‘ala wai nui, ‘ala‘ala wai nui pehu

Scientific Name: Peperomia (24 species)

Vernacular Name: none

Family: Piperaceae

Status: endemic (23), indigenous (1)

Authority: P. alternifolia Yunck., P. cookiana C.DC., P. O.Deg.i Yunck., P. eekana C.DC., P. ellipticibacca C.DC., P. expallescens C.DC., P. globulanthera C.DC., P. hesperomannii Wawra, P. hirtipetiola C.DC., P. hypoleuca, P. kipahuluensis H.St.John & C. Lamour, P. kokeana Yunck., P. latifolia Miq., P. leptostachya Hook. & Arn., P. ligustrina Hillebr., P. macaeana C.DC., P. mauiensis Wawra, P. membranacea Hook. & Arn., P. oahuensis C.DC., P. obovatilimba C.DC., P. remyi C.DC., P. rockii C.DC., P. sandwicensis Miq., P. subpetiolata Yunck., P. tetraphylla (G.Forst.) Hook. & Arn.

Description: Succulent annual/perennial herbs up to 35 cm long.

Habitat Species vary widely in habitats, many associated with a single island, most commonly favor wet habitats, although some species prefer dry to mesic environments; found from 0–2000 m (Wagner et al. 1990:1022–1037).

Medicines: There are a number of medicinal uses of the plant called ‘ala‘ala wai nui (see Abbott 1992:102; Chun 1994:31–38; Handy et al. 1934), but there may be some confusion between two plants, the Peperomia species and Plectranthus parviflorus. The Peperomia species are associated with kane (man). Chun notes that the leafbuds of ‘ala‘ala wai nui pehu are combined with ‘ilima flowers in a treatment for newborn babies. In the treatment of ‘ea, the leaves are processed with bark of the ‘ohi‘a ‘ai (Syzygium malaccense), kō kea (white sugarcane Saccharum officinarum), kukui flowers and fruit (Aleurites moluccana), ‘aka‘akai ‘oliana (onion) and kikania. For treatment of kohepopo, hinanawe, hopilo, and wai‘opua the stems are mixed with pith of ‘amau‘ama‘u (Sadleria cyatheoides), hala (Pandanus tectorius), ‘ohi‘a ‘ai bark (Syzygium malaccense), kō kea (white sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum), and noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia). For ke‘ewai and ni‘au, ‘ala‘ala wai nui is used in conjunction with ‘uala (sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas), noni bark, hāpu‘u shoots (Cibotium spp.), kō kea, and kukui. In treatment of ma‘i wai kohepopo a nawai hele a lena ka walewale, flower, leaf and stem are ground and mixed with niu, and eaten with a "sticky" banana (Chun 1994:31–35).

Non Medicinal Uses:

Specific gravity of wood: n/a

Famous Locations:


`Ōlelo Noeau:

Dye Color and Parts: Greyish-green (leaves, stems)

Kino lau:

Location on Bishop Museum Kalihi Campus: Yes

Propagation Information: Grow from stem/tip cuttings 3-4 inches, remove lower leaves & flower spikes, cut upper leaves in half, place cuttings 1/2 inch deep in rich but well drained medium of equal parts of peat moss & perlite; leafy compost works well; place in cool/shady place, water 2 times a day (Bornhorst 1996:32–33; Bornhorst and Rauch 1994:7).
Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database.
Native Plants Hawaii.

Seed: Seed length approximately 0.7 mm. Photograph: B.Kennedy. Species: P. membranacea.
Click for image