Ma`o, Hawaiian cotton (12 in x 12 in)
oil on wood, 2017
12 in x 12 in
gold leaf floater frame (13.5 in wide with frame)
Maʻo, or Hawaiian cotton blooms from late summer through winter. It is a small shrub found in mostly dry, leeward habitats. Brown capsules containing light brown fuzzy seeds follow the blooming period. The early Hawaiians used the leaves for a light green (ʻōmaʻomaʻo) or a rich red-brown dye to pattern their native kapa, or bark cloth. Although Hawaiians didn’t make cotton textiles from ma‘o, the species none-the-less helped to save the cotton industry in modern times. When maʻo is crossed with other cotton strains, the resulting commercial hybrids are less attractive to insect pests that destroy cotton crops.