Common Name
Hawaiian Gardenia

Hawaiian Name
Nänü, Na'u

Scientific Name
Gardenia brighamii


Kalama Garden



Whole Plant



Picture taken with permission from Dr. Carr at: faculty/carr/images /gar_bri_1214.jpg


Picture taken with permission from Dr. Carr at: /faculty /carr/images /gar_bri_1217.jpg


Location On Campus

This plant is found at the Kalama garden.


Natural Habitat

This plant is located on the islands of Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, and Oahu.

It is found in Mahana and Nanakuli.

It's habitat is in mid-elevation at dry and shady temperatures.

Cultural Information

It is an endemic plant as well as an endangered species. Nänü is related to the tiare, noni, and gardenia jasminole. It's bark is used in the second stage of kapa beating.

Plant Description


  •  Baby tree has 2 big stems about 4 cm in diameter
  • Branches out to stems of 2 cm in diameter
  • Woody stem
  • Light brown in color
  • Rough texture


  •  Thick, glossy, and hairless
  • Egg shaped
  • 10 cm long
  • Few cluttered toward tip of branches
  • 1.5-5 cm wide
  • 6-11 pairs of lateral veins
  • Upper surface thick and sticky
  • Lower surface is dull
  • Petioles 0.2-0.7 cm long
  • Light greenish-yellow in color
  • Pinnate venation
  • Entire margin
  • Simple leaf


  • Found at the end of the branch
  • Tubular shape
  • 6-7 petals per flower
  • Scent is similar to the common Gardenia
  • Quite Fragrant
  • Related to the Tahitian flower, tiare
  • 2 lateral buds
  • Stalk is 3-5 mm long


  •  At ripest, the size of a golf ball
  • Has white spots on top
  • The fruit is green
  • About 2 1/2 cm in diameter
  • Used to make yellow dye for kapa
  • Fleshy fruit
  • Non edible


  •  Yellow in color
  • Disk shaped seed
  • About 5 mm in diameter
  • 4-5 mm long
  • The pit is very fine
  • Not edible


  •  Semi-hardwood cuttings and grafting of the stem
  • Grows in well drained soils with few nutrients

Interesting Facts:

  • Only about 15-19 individual plants left in Hawai'i

Web Site Links

Environment Hawaii

In this site, you will find cultural information on the Nänü.

 Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database

This site has a brief description of habitat and propagation of the Nänü.

 Pacific Islands Endangered Species

This site shows the recovery plan for Nänü.



Culliney, John L. and Bruce P. Koebele. A Native Hawaiian Garden. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

E Ho`omau I Ke Ola: Na`u. Environment Hawai`i, Inc. 2002. 13 March 2003. <>

Gardenia Brighamii. 26 August 2001. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources University of Hawaii at Manoa. 12 March 2003. <>

Krauss, Beatrice H. Plant in Hawaiian Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

Lamb, Samuel H. Native Trees and Shrubs of the Hawaiian Islands. Santa Fey, New Mexico: Sunstone Press, 1981.

Pukui, Mary Kawena. 'Ölelo No'eau. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983.

Threatened and Endangered Plants in the Hawaiian Islands: The Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Gardenia. Fish and Wildlife Service. 13 March 2003. <>

Wagner, Warren and Herbst, Derral R. and S.H Sohmer. Flowering Plants of Hawaii. Honolulu: Bishop Museum, 1999.

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