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    (Click here to return to Plants & Creatures)

    Common Name:'Ōhelo (oh-hello)
    'Ōhelo and Berries
    Scientific:Vaccinium reticulatum
    Size:6 inches to small bush
    Fruit:Red/yellow edible berries
    Habitat:1000 ft 6,000 ft

    The 'Ōhelo that grows at higher altitudes and is abundant in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and Volcano area. The plant is usually small, from 6 inches to waist high, though it can occasionally be larger. The plant has many branches with small rounded leaves. Young leaves at the tops are reddish with green mature leaves.

    Related to the cranberry plant, the berries of the 'Ōhelo are edible and quite delicious. They range in color from bright red to yellows and oranges and the color is not necessairly indicative of the ripeness. The berries can be slightly tart to very sweet, depending on the plant and the maturity of the berries. While 'Ōhelo grows berries throughout the year and plants with berries may be next to ones that just had berries - there are definite seasons where more berries are produced.

    The 'Ōhelo berry was considered sacred to the Volcano Goddess Pele and offerings of branches with fruit were made into the Kīlauea volcano. Today the berry is a favorite staple of the Hawaiian Nēnē Goose as well as people.

    Important Note: Because the 'Ōhelo berry is eaten by the protected Nēnē Goose do not pick any berries you find in the park.

    Related to the 'Ōhelo is the 'Ōhelo kau lā au. This plant grows much taller, up to 6 ft and is more of a bush. The leaves and berries are much larger as well. The berries are also edible and when ripe can be quite sweet - though this variety is much harder to find.

    Poison Akia Looks Like 'Ōhelo
    Picture by A. Greenwell

    Do not confuse 'Ōhelo berry plants with the poison Akia plant pictured on the left. The Akia berries look similar to the 'Ōhelo berry but have a single large seed inside whereas the 'Ōhelo berry has many small seeds. The Akia plant is also more woody.

    'Ōhelo kau lā au

    'Ōhelo kau lā au Berries

    A tall 'Ōhelo Bush

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    All images and content, unless otherwise indicated, are © 2004-2021 InstantHawaii / David Cook
    Nene photo in top graphics by Brenda Zaun