‘Ākulikuli in Hawaiian Culture: Hawaiians ate ‘ākulikuli raw or cooked (Merlin 1999), I suspect, as a less tasty alternative to limu (Hawaiian marine algae). Today, people are adding ‘ākulikuli to salads.
Collecting Seeds: Wild ‘ākulikuli flower and fruit throughout the year, only stopping during periods of drought. Cultivated (and lightly-watered) ‘ākulikuli flower and fruit continuously. Collect the ripe fruits when they are dry and brown to black. Not all fruits contain seed. Generally, the plumper fruits with a visible tan-colored central cap (see photograph to right) contain good seed. To prevent going home empty-handed, gently crush the fruit and tip it upside-down. If it contains seeds, they will fall out into your hand or container. The seeds are very tiny (1 mm), black, and kidney-shaped. I have yet to store ‘ākulikuli seed, so, I cannot say how long they remain viable in the refrigerator.
Growing from Seed: No one I know grows ‘ākulikuli from seed – it’s just so much easier and quicker to grow it from cuttings! However, if you decide to try, here’s how I do it. Surface sow the tiny seeds in a pot containing a 1:1:1:1 mix of sand, perlite, black cinder, and peat moss. Water the pot daily. Seeds begin sprouting in a week or two. Separate and repot the tiny seedlings when they have 4 to 6 leaves. It takes several months for the seedlings to grow to a significant size (3 inches across); controlled-release or dilute liquid fertilizer helps quicken their growth.
Growing from Cuttings: Root ‘ākulikuli cuttings using either Method One (preferred) or Method Two. No rooting hormones are necessary. It is also possible to root cuttings outside of a container or mist bench (i.e., a shady spot within your nursery). Plant the cuttings vertically in a 1:1 mix of vermiculite and perlite, and water daily. The cuttings root incredibly fast – in as little as a week – but give them another week or two for further root growth. A controlled-release or dilute liquid fertilizer will spur rapid growth of the new plants. Your ‘ākulikuli should be ready to plant out after one to two months care in the nursery. ‘Ākulikuli cuttings can also be rooted in-situ using Method Three.
Growth in the Garden: I know a couple of people who have tried using ‘ākulikuli as a groundcover. Ultimately, the plants were infested with mealybugs, eaten by snails and slugs, or displaced by weeds. Therefore, I recommend you grow ‘ākulikuli in a container or a rock garden where you can easily control any pests. ‘Ākulikuli does best in full sun and will languish under the constant shade of a tree or awning. Despite its halophytic nature, ‘ākulikuli can tolerate frequent waterings provided it is planted in well-draining soil or media. Still, I discourage you from overwatering your ‘ākulikuli because it will lose its natural succulent form and become lanky. Somewhat surprisingly, this native herb can live a long time. I have repeatedly visited wild plants that are today over ten years old. And, ‘ākulikuli can grow quite large, sometimes several feet across. Unless you have the space, I encourage you to occasionally prune your ‘ākulikuli and either eat the pruned leaves (see recipe above) or root the cuttings to make new plants (for all your friends).
Diseases & Pests: ‘Ākulikuli are occasionally attacked by sucking insects, most commonly mealybugs. Repeated sprayings of horticultural oil will get rid of these pests. Be sure to lift up the stems so you can spray any bugs hidden between the stem and the soil. Snails and slugs sometimes become a problem, particularly if you have improperly planted your ‘ākulikuli in a cool moist location. I suspect wild ‘ākulikuli remain free of these pests because of the frequent salt spray they experience. Therefore, I encourage you to experiment with, perhaps, weekly sprayings of seawater as a prophylactic.
Ā ā Ē ē Ī ī Ō ō Ū ū