Native Hawaiian Butterfly Favors Mamaki

Kamehameha Butterfly
Kamehameha ButterflyWikimedia Commons

The Kamehameha butterfly is the Hawaiian state insect and one of only two butterflies native to the islands. And considering its favorite plant is mamaki, we now crown it the official insect of

But its numbers seem to be dwindling, so researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa are asking Hawaiians to take pictures of the butterfly and upload them to the Pulelehua Project website. The project is described in this news video. While the butterfly is the star of the show, the distinctive, red-veined mamaki leaf plays a strong supporting role. There is another good report and picture here.

Don’t get overly excited if you see a butterfly that looks like the Kamehameha. Monarchs DO exist in Hawaii. And the Kamehameha is only one of four Vanessa species on the islands. The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) even uses mamaki as it’s host plant, just like the Kamehameha.

Incidently, the ʻalalā (Hawaiian crow) is another animal for which mamaki plays an important role. The ʻalalā enjoys mamaki berries. The bird is currently extinct in the wild, but is expected to be reintroduced as part of a captive breeding program.

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