Hawaiian Coastal Cliff Vegetation

Many of the steep cliffs of this BioProvince are almost devoid of plants except for those found in crevices such as tufted species like Fimbristylis cymosa and the endemic Hedyotis littoralis (Rubiaceae), together with the strange endemic, Brighamia insignis (Campanulaceae) with its unbranched, succulent stems. On the coastal slopes of tuff or disintegrating lava Baerhavia acutifolia, Sida fallax and the endemic Jacquemontia ovalifolia (Convolvulaceae) are common, while other species like the rare endemic Schiedea globosa (Caryophyllaceae) is confined to O’ahu. On limestone shores (elevated coral reefs) the plant assemblage is very different and typically includes Lycium sandwichensis, Portulaca lutea, Sesuvium portulcastrum and the two endemic shrubs Chenopodium oahuensis (Chenopodiaceae) and Capparis sandwichiana (Capparaceae) – the latter producing beautiful nocturnal flowers.

Hawaiian Coastal Grasslands

Natural coastal grassland dominated by the endemic Eragrostis variabilis (Poaceae) occurs on all of the main islands, but only forms the dominant grassland association on the northwestern islands.  Other associated endemic plants include various shrubs such as Achyranthes splendens (Amaranthaceae) and Solanum nelsonii (Solanaceae), and the climber Sicyos maximowiczii (Cucurbitaceae). The pan tropical Sporobolus virginicus grassland also occurs in pockets throughout the archipelago but extensive stands are now confined to a few undisturbed dune systems.  Associated endemic species include the shrub Chamaesyce degeneri (Euphorbiaceae) and the herb Gnaphalium sandwicensium (Asteraceae).


Atkinson, A. E. 1970. Successional trends in the coastal and lowland forest of Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, Hawaii. Pacific Science, 24: 387-400.

Campbell, D. H. 1933. The flora of the Hawaiian Islands. Quarterly Review of Biology, 8: 164-184.

Carlquist, S. 1970. Hawaii A Natural History. The American Museum of Natural History.

MacCaughey, V. 1917. Vegetation of Hawaiian lava flows. Botanical Gazette, 64: 386-420.

Mueller-Dombois, D. & Fosberg, F. R. 1998. Vegetation of the Tropical Pacific Islands. Springer.

Stone, B. C. 1967. A review of the endemic genera of Hawaiian plants. Botanical Review, 33: 219-259.

Wagner, W. L., Herbst, D. R. & Sohmer, S. H. 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i. Volumes 1 & 2. Bishop Museum Special Publication 97. Bishop Museum Press.