Rhus sandwicensis – Neneleau

Rhus sandwicensis - Neneleau, Neleau, Hawaiian Sumac (flowers)

Rhus sandwicensis - Neneleau, Neleau, Hawaiian Sumac (fruit)

Rhus sandwicensis - Neneleau, Neleau, Hawaiian Sumac (young leaf)

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Rhus sandwicensis

Synonym: Rhus chinensis var. sandwicensis

Common Names: Neneleau, Neleau, Hawaiian Sumac

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Deciduous

Growth Habit: Tree

Hawaii Native Status: Native (endemic)

Flower Color: Dull pale yellow

Height: To 25 feet (8 m) tall, but often less

Description: The numerous, tiny flowers are clustered in panicles above the foliage. The flowers are followed by small, hairy, reddish fruits that can be mistaken for red flowers from a distance. The leaves are green, up to 18 inches (46 cm) long, alternate, and pinnately compound with an odd number of toothed, oblong to lanceolate, point-tipped leaflets. The leaves contain milky white sap. The young leaves are red, while the old, soon to drop leaves are yellow to red. The bark is smooth and gray-brown.

This plant is the only Rhus species found in Hawaii. Neneleau grows in lowland forest areas above 600 feet (183 m) in elevation. It is common along roadsides and at forest edges on the Big Island of Hawaii, but it is less common and less widespread on the other main islands.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae – Sumac family
Genus: Rhus L. – sumac
Species: Rhus sandwicensis A. Gray – neneleau

More About This Plant

Hawaii County Distribution Map