Common name: Beach naupaka, Beach cabbage, Sea lettuce, Hawaiian half flower, Naupaka kahakai, Fanflower, Half flower
Beach naupaka, as the name suggests, is mostly found on beaches forming large clumps of shrubs that can grow up to 4 meters high. Leaves are waxy and semi-succulent with smooth edges, growing to a length of 15-20 cms, forming small clumps of leaves at the tips, giving them the name sea cabbage.
The plants thrive well in salty water, marshes, mangroves, rocky areas, and cliffs with constant salt sprays. The stem is light-green and succulent forming rounded crowns. Flowers and fruits are white in color.
Beach naupaka plants bloom throughout the year with flowers that have white or cream petals on one half. Hence they are also called fan flower or half flower plants.
Petals have rough, serrated edges and a purple streak radiating from the center. Fruits are waxy and green when they are young, gradually turning white and eventually deep purple when they ripen.
These fruits are corky allowing them to float in salt water for many months, thus getting propagated to distant shores by the waves. In fact, they germinate best when they have been soaked in salt water for 6-8 months.
These plants are seen in all countries since they are spread through the seas like the Arabian sea, Pacific ocean, and Indian ocean. Though Beach naupaka plants are mostly seen on beaches, they can also be found inland in loose, sandy soil.
Their brushy crowns prevent soil erosion to a certain extent and are hence planted extensively in areas with severe soil erosion. They are also used for landscaping as hedge plants to protect other plants from harsh salt sprays.
In certain uninhabited areas, they have become severely invasive leading to large areas being devoid of any other vegetation. Their quick and efficient propagation methods help Beach naupaka plants conquer new territories quickly.
Beach naupaka leaves are used as famine foods. They are also used to treat wounds, cuts, skin allergies, and even eye diseases. The stem is sometimes used for making paper.
Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.