Naio is an extremely important and wide-spread tree across Hawai‘i’s native ecosystems. From wet forests to arid scrublands, from coastal sea strand to high-elevation forests like this, naio is one of the most versatile plant species in Hawai‘i. In these forests, however, it is co-dominant with māmane and grows to large, aged girths. The dark shade of the canopy provides shelter to palila and other birds both from the hot mid-day sun and from aerial predators like the ‘io (Hawaiian hawk).
Hawaiians used the sturdy and dense wood for manu (canoe bow and stern end pieces), pale (canoe gunwales), pou (house posts), and lamalama (torches used for night fishing).
Unfortunately, an invasive insect, Myoporum thrips, is ravaging naio. The severe galling on the new leaves slows down the plants growth and can eventually kill the entire tree.