University of Hawai`i

Botany Department

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Halophila hawiiana

Doty and Stone 1966




Class Order Family
Anthophyta Alismatidae Hydrocharitales Hydrocharitaceae

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Halophila hawaiiana, our native seagrass, is a somewhat rare flowering plant in sandy reef regions or bays on Hawaiian coasts.



Halophila hawaiiana bed in sandy bay at O‘ahu.



Pairs of leaves on petioles along a rhizome rooted in sand. Leaves are from 1.8 - 5 mm wide, obovate to spatulate. Male and female flowers are produced infrequently on separate plants. Branching leads to intertwined plants in a meadow or runners colonizing new substrate. Bright green.


Structural Features

Leaves are crisp, remaining erect out of water; midrib and margin thickened. Leaf surface smooth, shiny, margin without spines or serrations.



Forms patches or meadows in sand with only the leaves visible, often covered by epiphytes. Found subtidally at 0.5 - 4 m in sandy areas surrounding reefs, in bays or fishponds.



Hawai‘i:  O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i, Kau‘i, Midway.

Mechanism of Introduction:  Endemic to Hawai‘i.



Halophila hawaiiana is a relatively rare subtidal seagrass, a flowering plant with roots that hold sediments. Like other seagrasses, Halophila meadows support a rich community of associated organisms in sediments and on the leaf blades, providing food and shelter for more mobile organisms such as fish and crustaceans. Halophila hawaiiana is part of the Hawaiian green turtle’s diet.


Phillips, R.C. and E.G. Menez. Seagrasses. 1988. Smithsonian Contributions to the Marine Sciences 34. 89 pp.

Russell, D. J. and G. H. Balazs, 2000. Identification manual for dietary vegetation of the Hawaiian green turtle , Chelonia mydas. NOAA TM-NMFS-SWFSC-294. 49 pp.


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