Portulaca molokiniensis ('Ihi) An upright growing succulent that branches from the base to form a small shrub 12 inches tall by about as wide with upright ¾ inch thick round corky stems bearing 1- to 2-inch-long rounded pale green succulent leaves that are arranged neatly in 4 distinct rows towards the branch tips. A cluster of small lemon-yellow cup-shaped flowers subtended by leafy bracts form at the ends of stout non-leaf bearing stems that rise above a terminal rosette of leaves.
This plant has not been widely cultivated but our experience with it is that it should be grown in full coastal sun to light shade in a very well-draining soil and watered regularly to occasionally spring through fall. It is listed by some as hardy to 20° F but we think it not nearly this hardy and treat it as tender to frost. We have lost this plant in the winter but likely because of the combination of wet and cold - likely this plant would be best suited in such a well-drained soil that this is not an issue or in a location protected from receiving winter moisture and frost. This is an extremely attractive plant that makes a beautiful and unique specimen as a container planting or in a garden setting in a raised bed or raised planter.
Portulaca molokiniensis is a rare endemic to the Hawaiian islands where it known to grow in loose volcanic scree on steep slopes and in sand near the seaside on the arid islets of Molokini and Pu'ukoa'e and at Kanhio Bay on Kaho'olawe off the west coast of Maui. Though many think of the Hawaiian islands as lush and moist, the collection sites on these islands are on the leeward, rain shadow side and is extremely dry. Though this plant was first collected by Charles N. Forbes on Molokini in February 1913, it was identified as Portulaca lutea, a plant more widely distributed throughout the Pacific islands. It was collected once again as Portulaca lutea in the 1920's and then not documented again until collections were made in the late 1970's and early 1980's where the distinctiveness of the plant was noted and it was officially described as a new species by Hawaii forester Bob Hobdy in 1987. The specific epithet is a reference to the collection location on Molokini.
Information about Portulaca molokiniensis displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.