Common Name
Hawaiian Cotton

Hawaiian Name

Scientific Name
Gossypium tomentosum




Whole Plant



Location On Campus

This plant is located in the Kalama garden.

Natural Habitat

Ma'o is found on every island except on the Big Island. It can survive in very dry climate. It lives in lowland areas.

Cultural Information

 The Ma‘o plant is endemic to Hawai‘i. The cotton on the plant had no known use to the ancient Hawaiians.

Plant Description


  • It can spread from 5-10 cm in diameter.


  • About 4 cm wide
  • Hairs on the leaves that give it a silverish-green look
  • Lobed margin


  • Solitary
  • Bright yellow color
  • Look like those of the hibiscus
  • About 2-3 cm long


  • Oval and woody
  • Size range from 0.5-0.75 cm long


  • 6-12 seeds
  • Enclosed in a three part capsule
  • Covered in a reddish brown fuzz

Life Cycle/ Reproduction:

  • Matures in about 2-3 years

Propagation/ Cultivation:

  • Seeds should be scarified
  • Needs water when it sprouts
  • Put it somewhere sunny

Interesting facts:

  • Ma'o is being bred with other cotton to make a much better species
  • Resistant to many plant diseases

Web Site Links


This site shows the picture of the flower for the plant Ma‘o.


This site has more information on the plant.

Ma‘o Hawaiian Cotton

This site shows where you can learn how to grow the plant, where it can be found, and many other interesting facts.


 Bornhorst, Heidi Leianuenue. Growing Native Plants. Honolulu: The Bess Press, Inc., 1996.

 Pukui, Mary Kawena and Samuel H. Elbert. Hawaiian Dictionary. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1971.

 Rauch, Fred D. and Paul R. Weissich. Plants for Tropical Landscapes. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000

Scott, Susan. Plants and Animals in Hawaii. Honolulu: The Bess Press, 1991.

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