`Ilima, Sida fallax Walp., is a low sprawling shrub of the family Malvaceae, which grows up to 4 feet tall and occurs from sea level to altitudes of more than 2,000 feet. It is frequently seen growing wild in dry places, including Kapi'olani's Diamond Head campus, while certain other varieties are cultivated in gardens for the purpose of providing lei flowers. The leaves of the `Ilima are small, light green, heart-shaped with blunt or pointed ends, and with slightly scalloped edges. The flowers are solitary, or in 2's and 3's, scattered over the plant on short stems. Flower colors range from yellow, to rich orange to dull red and even brown. The flowers, about an inch across, resemble a small hibiscus, with five petals and a group of stamens in the center.
The `Ilima is regarded as the special flower of the island of Oahu and is a very popular lei flower. The flowers are strung into leis by threading them through the center. As a medicinal source, the `Ilima flowers were sometimes used by the Hawaiians to cure general debility. Juice from the pressed flowers was given to children and pregnant women sometimes ate the flowers until childbirth. Formerly, the large cultivated plants were used for slats in building houses. They made temporary baskets by plaiting whole plants together with roots at the top.
`Ilima, Sida fallax Walp., of the family Malvaceae, is a hardy prostrate shrub on the coastal regions and erect woody shrubs in mesic wooded environments. The yellow-flowered form of `ilima is the island flower of Oahu. It is said to be one of the forms that Laka, the goddess of hula, could take at will. It takes several hundreds of these golden paper-thin flowers to make a single neck lei.