Wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis) is a species of tree in the flowering plant family, Fabaceae. This plant, endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, is typically found in dry forests on leeward island slopes up to an elevation of 600 m. Although a number of introduced species of Erythrina occur in the Hawaiian Islands, the wiliwili is distinguished by a pod with only 1-3 red or yellow-orange seeds; non-native Erythrina (popular street trees in dry areas) have pods with larger numbers of brown seeds. Mature wiliwili trees have a distinct orange cast to the bark of the main trunk, caused by a terrestrial alga.
The wiliwili is summer (dry-season) deciduous. Typically, the trees lose all of their leaves as the dry season (usually beginning around late April or May) progresses. They then burst into flower in late August or September. Pods develop and persist on the tree, the seeds being knocked out by heavy downpours that generally start around November in the islands. Many seeds germinate quickly, and a well-established seedling can grow to 4-feet in height before the start of the next dry season.
The wiliwili is unusual in bearing spines—unusual, because this is a species that has evolved in the isolated Hawaiian Islands in the absence of ungulate or other large herbivores. This species is thought to be closely related to E. tahitensis, a tree endemic to the Tahitian Archipelago, and E. velutina, a wide-spread species found in tropical South America and the West Indies.
Lately it has been reported (Science, 16 December 2005) that the Hawaiian wiliwili population is under immediate threat due to an infestation with a parasitic wasp, the gall wasp Quadratichus erythrinae, that invaded Hawaii earlier that year. The invasive species appears to have invaded Hawaii via southern Taiwan, Singapore and southern China within only two years.
The Hawaiian name of 'wiliwili' means 'repeatedly twisted' and refers to the seed pods which twist open to reveal the seeds.
Alas! I am seized by the shark, great shark! Lala-kea with triple-banked teeth. The stratum of Lono is gone, Torn up by the monster shark, Niuhi with fiery eyes, That flamed in the deep blue sea. Alas! and alas! When the flowers of the wili-wili tree, That is the time when the shark-god bites. Alas! I am seized by the huge shark! O blue sea, O dark sea, Foam-mottled sea of Kane! What pleasure I took in my dancing! Alas! now consumed by the monster shark!
Hawaii's coral trees feel the sting of foreign wasps: island researchers are desperate to find a natural enemy of the parasitic wasps that are killing a local treasure, the wiliwili.(Conservation Biology)
Dec 16, 2005; The once-beautiful coral trees on the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus where botanist David Duffy works have deformed lumps...