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This species is found in nearly all the Pacific Islands. The date of its introduction to Hawaii, however, is not recorded. It is a small tree which grows in the low lands. Its shiny, oval leaves have short petioles. The white flowers are about 1 inch in length. The fruit is whitish-yellow when mature, and when decaying it emits a very offensive odor. The seeds are interesting because they will float a great length of time in salt water, their buoyancy is caused by a distinct air cell.
This is an erect dwarf shrub growing to a height of from one to two feet, having stiff, crowded branches with leaves varying in form, from oblong to obovate, and in color from green to green tinged with yellow and red. The white flowers are solitary, and come mostly in the axils of the true leaves. The globose fruit is a fleshy, shiny berry, much resembling the cranberry; in color it is yellow or pale rose, and is covered with a waxy bloom.
The Ohelo thrives best in the higher elevations, from 4000 to 8000 feet. It grows particularly well on the mountain slope"of Hawaii and Maui. It is an edible berry, and is the principal food of the rare Hawaiian goose, now to be found in only a few localities. The Ohelo has always been a favorite subject of Hawaiian songs and legends, and was used as one of the offerings to the Goddess 1'ele.