‘Ilie‘e in Hawaiian Culture: Hawaiians used the sap of ‘ilie‘e to blacken tattoos. Neal (1965) has stated that the plant is poisonous, but was still used as a "baby medicine."
Collecting Seeds: In the wild, ‘ilie‘e flower and fruit several weeks after a good rain, normally during the cooler wetter winter months. Flowering and fruiting is nearly continuous for cultivated plants. Collect the 1 cm long fruits when they are brown or black. Within each fruit, you will find one hard tan to brown elongate seed (see photos above). Discard any unripe green seeds since it's unlikely they will germinate. I have never stored ‘ilie‘e seeds because it has always been so easy to collect them from wild or cultivated plants, therefore, I cannot comment on how long seeds remain viable in storage.
Growing from Seed: Almost no one ever propagates ‘ilie‘e from seed because it is so much easier to root cuttings. However, if you want to, this is how I do it. Sow several seeds in a berry container using Method One. The first ‘ilie‘e seedlings should appear about three weeks after sowing with others following periodically for another 2-3 months. Gently remove and repot each seedling after it develops 1-2 true leaves. In its own pot, seedlings grow rather quickly if you place them in a lightly shaded place (I keep mine under 50% shadecloth), and water them regularly. In 3-4 months, you should have a 6-12 inch tall/long plant ready for your garden or restoration site. It's during this early stage in the nursery when your ‘ilie‘e is most likely to die from overwatering, or become infested with sap-sucking pests. If it does, refer to Enemies in the Garden for treatments.
Growing from Cuttings: Rooting ‘ilie‘e cuttings is incredibly easy. Therefore, I normally bypass Methods One and Two, and place each cutting in its own pot filled with my standard potting mix for native plants (i.e., 1:1:1; perlite: vermiculite: peat moss). I also do not use rooting hormones because it just isn't necessary. I place the cuttings directly in a shaded site in the nursery (or elsewhere) rather than inside a sealed clear container or mist chamber. I do, however, remove nearly all the leaves from each cutting, as well as the tender growing tip. Removing most of the leaves and tip sufficiently compensates for the increased evaporation from the cutting (because the surrounding humidity will be less than in a sealed container or mist chamber). Using this abbreviated method, ‘ilie‘e cuttings take 1-2 weeks to develop their first roots, and another 1-2 months to grow a new root system extensive enough to be ready for planting in the garden. As an alternative, you can also use Method Three for ‘ilie‘e cuttings, although this in-situ technique is not as successful (probably because harmful microbes in the soil kill the cutting before it can root).
Growth in the Garden: Plant your ‘ilie‘e anywhere except in a site with heavy continuous shade. For the first month or so, water it weekly until it can establish its root system. After that, your plant will only need watering if you see signs of stress like wilting or leaf loss. In a restoration setting, ‘ilie‘e can go months without rain, losing nearly all its leaves, yet bursting back to life when the rain finally returns. Both plants propagated from seed and plants rooted from cuttings grow quickly and will start flowering almost immediately if grown from a cutting or within a few months if grown from seed. Left alone, a single ‘ilie‘e can spread out to cover a large area (i.e., several square meters) in 1-2 years, and, sometimes but not always, will naturally root itself to the ground as it grows outward. As a groundcover, ‘ilie‘e does a pretty good job of suppressing weeds provided you don't let it dry out and go leafless. While I haven't needed to prune back my ‘ilie‘e very often, it can survive even extreme pruning quite well. I have never tried (or needed) to fertilize any of my ‘ilie‘e.
Diseases & Pests: I have had almost no pest or disease problems with ‘ilie‘e. Rarely, mealybugs or aphids have infested the growing tips, but in the garden or field these infestations have always disappeared after a time (probably because of natural predators). If this happens in the nursery, a few sprayings of horticultural oil or insecticidal soap should get rid of these pests. Refer to Enemies in the Garden for more details on how to eliminate mealybugs and aphids.
Ā ā Ē ē Ī ī Ō ō Ū ū