The Herbarium of Endangerment: Eugenia koolauensis

By Dr. Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez, Liz Orton

Jun 30 2022

Many Latin plant names feature the intersection of imperial European botany and the highly localized circumstances of plant collection. This is no less apparent for Eugenia koolauensis. Eugenia, the genus name for this endangered myrtle plant, was devised by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) to aggrandize Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736). At the same time, the species epithet, koolauensis, honors the Koʻolau Mountains of Oahu, a sacred range and historical marker in Hawaiʻi’s political history, where the specimen was collected and subsequently described by a U.S. botanist. In Hawaiʻi, some ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi-speaking communities refer to the plant as nīoi, known by some for its poisonous and ritual qualities.