Capparis sandwichiana

Common Name: caper 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Capparaceae
Native Range: Hawaii
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 3.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: White, Pink, Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Ground Cover
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Best grown in dry, rocky to sandy, loose, well-draining soils in full sun. Tolerant of drought and salt spray once established. Thrives in dry, coastal conditions. Hardy in Zones 11 and above.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Capparis sandwichiana, commonly called maiapilo or Hawaiian caper, is a narrowly endemic caper species native only to the eight main islands of Hawaii and several outlying islets and atolls. It is found growing on open, windswept, rocky, coastal areas and occasionally farther inland. A sprawling to mounded evergreen shrub, mature prostrate specimens can have branches up to 15' long spread along the ground, while more upright specimens can reach 6' tall. The oval-shaped leaves have a somewhat thick, leathery texture and reach 1-2" long. The fragrant, night-blooming flowers are white with numerous, long, showy stamens. The flowers are followed by oblong fruits that mature from green to yellow with round, dark brown seeds embedded in acrid, orange flesh. The fruits are attractive to birds. This plant is a larval host of a diamondback moth (Plutella capparidis) and a nectar source for Blackburn's sphinx moth (Manduca blackburni), two moth species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.

The genus name Capparis comes from kapparis which is the ancient Greek name for the caper bush.

The specific epithet sandwichiana means "of the Sandwich Islands", which was the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by British explorer James Cook.


The caterpillars of the introduced cabbage butterfly will eat holes along the margins of the foliage. Stem dieback can occur, especially during rainy weather. Overwatering or planting in poorly drained soil is typically fatal.


Suitable for use as a ground cover or small hedge in coral or lava rock gardens. Prefers dry, coastal conditions and may be slow to establish.