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Hibiscus waimeae is a small, gray-barked tree up to 10 m tall. The upper surface of the leaves is light green while the lower surface is covered with velvety hairs which makes it appear grayish.
The native hibiscus in Hawaii are thought to derive from four separate colonizations. Hibiscus waimeae is found only on the island of Kaua’i and the subspecies waimeae is found in the found in the Waimea Canyon area and various western and southwestern, ocean-facing valleys, in mixed mesic forests from 250-1200 m.
Although Hibiscus waimeae subsp. waimeae is not endangered, Hibiscus waimeae subsp. hannerae is listed as a federally endangered species and is on IUCN's red list of endangered species.