Botanical Descriptions and Traditional Uses
E kanu mea ‘ai o nānā keiki i ka ha‘i.
Plant edible food plants lest your children look with
longing at someone else’s.
‘Ape (Alocasia macrorrhizos)
Common Name: Elephant’s-Ear
Family: Araceae—Philodendron or Aroid Family
‘Ape is an herb that may reach a height of 16 feet (5 m) with stems (petioles) that may be more than 4 feet (1.2 m) long.
‘Ape resembles kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro), to which it is closely related. One distinct difference between ‘ape and taro is that the leaf blades of ‘ape tend to point upward while taro’s leaves tend to point downward.
‘Ape’s heart-shaped leaves are light green and shiny. The leaves are 10 to 47 inches (25 to 120 cm) long and 8 to 35 inches (20 to 90 cm) wide. Ape’s berries are roundish (ovoid) in shape, about ¼-inch (6 mm) in diameter, and about 1/3-inch (9 mm) long.
Like taro, ‘ape tubers contain calcium oxalate and so they must be cooked in order to be eaten. Ancient Hawaiians ate ‘ape during times of food scarcity.
‘Ape leaves also had medicinal uses. One medicinal use of ‘ape involved wrapping a person in the leaves of the plant to induce sweating (hou).
Bruised ‘ape leaves and stalks were mixed with black lo‘i mud and used as a dye for the decorations on ipu (Lagenaria siceraria, bottle gourds). Decorative motifs were cut into the gourd’s outer surface, and then the dye mixture was placed inside the gourd to seep through and color the cut areas.
Today ‘ape is a commonly cultivated plant and is also naturalized in many areas on all the main Hawaiian Islands, particularly along streams in moist valley areas, and generally at low elevations.
‘Auhuhu (Tephrosia purpurea)
Family: Fabaceae—Pea Family
‘Auhuhu is a small shrubby legume reaching heights up to 5 feet (1.5 m), though usually growing much shorter. ‘Auhuhu has compound leaves comprised of 7 to 21 leaflets that are from 2/5 to 1¼-inch (10 to 32 mm) long by 1/5 to 2/5 inch (5 to 11 mm) wide. ‘Auhuhu’s pink to white-purplish, up-curved flowers are up to 10 inches (25 cm) long.
The seedpods are about 1-1/3 inches (32 mm) long and about 1/6 inch (4 mm) wide. Ancient Hawaiians pounded the seedpods of ‘auhuhu plants and placed them in tidal pools to poison fish. The poisonous ingredient of the plant is called tephrosin, a substance that affects fish but does not affect mammals.
A Hawaiian proverb states: “He pōpō ‘auhuhu.” (“A ball of ‘auhuhu.”), which was “said of a sorcerer who prays others to death, or of anything that would cause serious trouble. The ‘auhuhu is a poisonous plant used for stunning fish.”[i]
‘Auhuhu also has been used medicinally, and mixed with ‘awapuhi kuahiwi (Zingiber zerumbet, shampoo ginger), pa‘akai (sea salt), and ‘auko‘i (Senna occidentalis, coffee senna, a post-contact introduced species) as a treatment for skin diseases, including skin ulcers.
‘Auhuhu was also used as part of a medicinal preparation that was placed in a sheath of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut) and squeezed over sprained limbs. This preparation also included kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), leaf buds of kuawa (Psidium guajava, guava), and pa‘akai (sea salt).
On the island of Hawai‘i, a point called ‘auhuhu was named after the plant, which grew wild there and, along with kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) was traded for coastal products such as fish.
‘Awa (Piper methysticum)
Common Name: Kava
Family: Piperaceae—Pepper Family
Commonly called kava, ‘awa usually grows from about 4 to12 feet (1.2 to 3.7 m) tall, and is recognized by its large, heart-shaped leaves that grow from 5 to 12 inches (13 to 30 cm) wide and long, with 9 to 13 prominent curved veins. ‘Awa’s jointed stems have swollen-appearing nodes.
‘Awa’s root system may be significant, attaining a larger size in older plants. Drinking the prepared root of the plant creates a relaxing feeling (and also numbs one’s mouth). Ancient Hawaiians utilized the plant for its sedative effects and for ceremonial uses.
An ancient proverb states: “E hānai ‘awa a ikaika ka makani.” (“Feed with ‘awa so that the spirit may gain strength.”), which is explained to mean, “One offers ‘awa and prayers to the dead so that their spirits may grow strong and be a source of help to the family.”[ii]
Varieties of ‘Awa
‘Awa prefers wet, windward habitat. The Polynesian settlers brought ‘awa to the Hawaiian Islands and planted it in various locations where it still grows today, particularly in many wet, shady valleys at elevations from 165 to 1,650 feet (50 to 500 m). There are at least 18 known varieties of ‘awa in the Hawaiian Islands.
Some varieties of ‘awa were preferred for medicinal uses, and some were more prominently mentioned in ancient lore. ‘Awa-a-Kane (‘awa li‘i) is said to have been brought by the god Kane, becoming the first ‘awa in the Hawaiian Islands.
‘Awa hiwa was often used medicinally, and is recognized by its long internodes. Also used medicinally were several varieties with spotted stalks, including ‘awa nēnē, said to resemble the spots of the native nēnē (Branta sandvicensis, Hawaiian goose), as well as ‘awa papa ‘ele‘ele, ‘awa papa mō‘ī, and the most common variety, ‘awa papa ke‘oke‘o.
The strong scented ‘awa mokihana (named after the fragrant mokihana plant of Kaua‘i), has yellowish-green internodes and was known to provide a potent brew. The light-green stalk and short internodes of ‘awa mamaka were known to Wainiha Valley on Kaua‘i’s north shore.
Traditional and Medicinal Uses of ‘Awa
To prepare ‘awa for medicinal uses, the ‘awa root was first dried, and then chewed or pounded. This pulp was then mixed with water or the juice of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut) and squeezed to extract the active ingredients from the ‘awa root.
The resulting liquid was then strained through fibers of a sedge such as ‘ahu‘awa (Cyperus javanicus), or makaloa (Cyperus laevigatus). Sometimes added to this mixture was juice squeezed from the roots of young kī plants (Cordyline fruticosa, ti). The mixture might also be heated in a calabash using hot stones.
A mother wishing to induce sleep in a child would sometimes chew the young ‘awa leaf buds, and then give them to the child. ‘Awa was also used in religious ceremonies and was offered to visitors, especially those of high rank. For example, a visiting chief would be offered a niu-shell cup of ‘awa.
The word pūpū originally referred to mai‘a, fish or chicken when it was eaten with ‘awa to mitigate the ‘awa’s unpleasant taste, but the word pūpū has now come to refer to any appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Other plants eaten to offset ‘awa’s unpleasant taste were kō (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), or the broiled meat of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut).
To treat ‘ea, a disease of the mouth, a paste was made from well-cooked kernels of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut), ashes from burned pili grass (Heteropogon contortus, twisted beardgrass), and the ashes of the fibers of the mashed ‘awa root. This preparation was smeared onto the lesions in the mouth several times a day.
A headache was treated by simply chewing small pieces of the ‘awa’s root. To treat chills, the mashed ‘awa root was mixed with leaf buds and leaves of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple), a green kernel of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut), leaf buds of ko‘oko‘lau (Bidens species) the juice of kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane) and spring water. This mixture was then strained and consumed.
‘Awa also had various other medicinal uses in ancient Hawai‘i, including as part of a preparation to treat bladder problems (see Niu) and for treating sprained limbs (see ‘Awapuhi Kuahiwi).
Another traditional use of ‘awa was as a bait to lure the legendary deep-sea niuhi shark (a name given to various shark species), which was caught with a noose.
The ‘awa was wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) along with cooked pig liver or dog and dropped in the ocean on consecutive days, ultimately luring a shark close to the canoe where, somewhat sedated by the ‘awa, the shark was then more easily caught.
‘Awapuhi Kuahiwi (Zingiber zerumbet)
Common Name: Shampoo Ginger, Wild Ginger
Family: Zingiberaceae—Ginger Family
‘Awapuhi kuahiwi grows up to 6½ feet (2 m) tall with leaves that are up to 16 inches (40 cm) long by 3½ inches (8.5 cm) wide, smooth on upper surface and somewhat fuzzy underneath. The plant grows in moist, shady areas on Lāna‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.
‘Awaphui kuahiwi’s pale, yellow flowers bloom in sequence, emerging from a green top that turns purple to pink/red in late summer. The pinecone-shaped flower head (inflorescence) is about 2 to 5 inches (5 to 13 cm) long and comprised of greenish-red overlapping modified leaves (bracts) covering tiny yellowish flowers that open one at a time.
This flower head may be squeezed to provide a fragrant, sudsy liquid that works well as a shampoo, and was used for that purpose by ancient Hawaiians. This aromatic sap was also put into the imu (underground earthen oven) to flavor meat.
‘Awapuhi kuahiwi rhizomes (underground stems) were used to scent kapa (tapa) barkcloth and as a dye. After flowering, the leaves of awapuhi kuahiwi turn yellow and die, and the plant goes dormant for about 3½ months.
During this winter dormancy, the knobby rhizomes of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi are commonly seen. In spring the plant rises up again.
A Hawaiian proverb states, “‘Awapuhi lau pala wale.” (“Ginger leaves yellow quickly.”), which was “said of a weakling who withers easily, or of anything that passes too soon.”[iii]
In ancient Hawai‘i, a compress of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi was applied to bruises, sore areas and cuts. To cure a stomachache, the underground stems of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi were ground up, mixed with water, strained through makaloa (Cyperus laevigatus) and consumed.
A headache (‘eha ke po‘o) was treated by mashing together pa‘akai (sea salt) with rhizomes of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi. This was squeezed through a sheath made from niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut palm), producing a liquid and residue mash.
The liquid was then consumed and the residue mash was rubbed onto the forehead. Biting down on a slightly roasted piece of awapuhi kuahiwi rhizome eased the pain of a toothache.
Another medical preparation involved mixing the ashes of kī leaves (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) with sap from the ‘awapuhi kuahiwi’s rhizomes, and with the ashes of a small-leafed variety of ‘ohe called ‘ohe lau li‘ili‘i (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo), as well as the sap of the nut of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut).
This mixture was applied to sore areas, including bruises and cuts, using a piece of kapa to hold it in place. Other medicinal uses of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi existed in ancient Hawai‘i, including treatments for ringworm (ane, or hā‘ue‘ue) and skin diseases.
One formulation involved combining ingredients of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi with various other ingredients, including pa‘akai (sea salt), ‘auko‘i (Senna occidentalis, coffee senna, a post-contact introduced species) and ‘auhuhu (Tephrosia purpurea), a small legume that was also used to poison fish.
To sooth aching joints, ‘auhuhu leaf buds were mixed with ‘awapuhi kuahiwi’s rhizomes and flower buds, along with the bark of ‘iliahi (Santalum species, sandalwood). The liquid was strained from this mash and rubbed on sore areas.
Sprains were treated with a different mixture, comprised of leaf of the native ‘ilie‘e (Plumbago zeylanica), root of ‘awa (Piper methysticum, kava), ripe fruit of noni (Morinda citrifolia, Indian mulberry), and ‘awapuhi kuahiwi root. ‘Awapuhi kuahiwi was also used to treat sinus problems (see ‘Ōlena) and skin diseases (see ‘Auhuhu).
Today, awapuhi kuahiwi’s aromatic sap is still appreciated for its fresh aroma, and is marketed commercially as a shampoo ingredient.
‘Awapuhi kuahiwi should not be confused with other fragrant and familiar gingers that were introduced later to the Hawaiian Islands. Some of these other ginger species now grow in the wild or are grown ornamentally.
Introduced gingers include ‘awapuhi kāhili (kāhili ginger); ‘awapuhi ke‘oke‘o (white ginger); awapuhi ko‘oko‘o (torch ginger); ‘awapuhi luheluhe (shell ginger); ‘awapuhi melemele (yellow ginger); and ‘awapuhi ‘ula‘ula (red ginger).
There are also two edible gingers, including ‘awapuhi Pākē (Chinese ginger), also called ‘awapuhi ‘ai (See Lei Flowers, Chapter 3 for information on these other ginger species.)
Crepe ginger (Costus speciosus), also called Malay ginger or spiral flag, has naturalized itself in some areas of the Hawaiian Islands and may now be seen growing wild along windward roadsides.
The plant is not grown commercially because the flower bruises easily, but it may be seen in private gardens. Crepe ginger has rhizomes with potent steroids that are used medicinally in India in birth control pills.
[Photograph: ‘Awapuhi kuahiwi]
Ipu (Lagenaria siceraria)
Common Name: Bottle Gourd
Family: Cucurbitaceae—Gourd Family
Also known by the Hawaiian term pōhue, ipu is a wide-spreading vine with branched tendrils and lobed (or 5-angled), roundish or heart-shaped leaves that are about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in diameter.
Ipu produces white flowers that are about 1½ inches (3.8 cm) long. The flowers grow individually in the leaf axils and bloom at night.
The fruit (gourd) of the ipu vine is green, maturing to a tan or beige color. The gourds vary in size and shape, containing a white pulp and many light-colored, flattish seeds, each about 1½ inches (3.8 cm) long.
The rind of the ipu gourd is woody and hard, which made it useful for a variety of purposes in ancient Hawai‘i. Gourds referred to as ipu wai or hue wai were used to hold water and other liquids, and gourds referred to as ipu ‘ai were used to hold food.
Ipu is the Hawaiian name for the plant as well as a general name for gourd containers, including dishes, pots and cups. Gourds used as containers were of the variety known as ipu mānalo, the “sweet” gourd,” while another variety, ipu ‘awa‘awa, or the “bitter” gourd, was used medicinally.
Ancient Hawaiians grew gourds primarily on the southern and leeward coasts of the Islands, as the plants favor hot and sunny habitats with plenty of moisture.
Generally, the gourds were planted at the start of the rainy season in the Islands, and they matured over the summer and were ready for harvest in about six months.
Sometimes three small branches were used to prop the fruit up off the ground as it grew, helping to ensure a symmetrical and unmarred gourd. When the stem connecting the gourd to the plant withered, the gourd was picked.
Gourds used as food bowls were known as ‘umeke pōhue. Bowls made from gourds are also referred to as calabashes, though this term now also refers to bowls made from shells of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut), as well as bowls made from wood.
The Hawaiian saying “He ipu kā‘eo” (“A full calabash”), refers to “...a knowledgeable person.”[iv]
Gourd calabashes were prepared by first cutting off the top and filling the emptied gourd with ocean water, which was changed every ten days to soften the gourd’s hard flesh, which was then removed along with the seeds.
Small stones were placed with water into the gourd and shaken repeatedly to smooth the gourd’s inner surface. Coral was also used to rub away the roughness of the inside of the dried gourd rind. Then a conical shell or carved wood was used to create a stopper (pani ‘ōmole) that fit into the gourd’s opening.
Residents of Ni‘ihau were known to create designs on their gourd food bowls, and these decorated gourd bowls were known as ‘umeke pāwehe. Geometric designs were carved into the gourd’s outer skin and then the gourd was soaked in a bark infusion and immersed in black lo‘i mud, which turned the carved areas black.
Another method was to fill the gourd with a dye made from leaves of ‘ape (Alocasia macrorrhizos, elephant’s-ear) along with lo‘i mud, which then soaked through to color the carved outer areas of the gourd.
There are several different types of gourd water containers, including: hue wai ‘ihi loa, which has a very long neck; hue wai ‘ihi, which has a moderately long neck; hue wai pueo, which has an hourglass shape and is said to resemble the pueo (Asio flammeus sandwichensis, Hawaiian owl); and ‘olo wai, which has a cylindrical shape.
[Illustration or Photographs: Three types of gourd containers: hue wai ‘ihi loa; hue wai ‘ihi; and ‘olo wai.]
A long gourd calabash is referred to by the Hawaiian term hōkeo, while those used for kapa (tapa) barkcloth items (or food) are referred to as hulilau. An ipu variety on Maui and Moloka‘i with green, white-splotched fruit is known as kūkae‘iole, which literally means “dung of ‘iwa bird.”
Various methods were developed to hang or carry gourd containers, including one that utilized a continuous unknotted cord, a form unique to the Hawaiian Islands among all of Polynesia.
Older gourds often became dry and cracked, and were repaired using a kui iwi (bone awl) and thread made from olonā (Touchardia latifolia) in a process known as pāhono, which means, “to mend or sew.”
Gourd Drums and other Instruments
The ipu was used to make musical instruments, including rattles and drums that accompanied hula. Pā ipu, the drum, is known to produce a musical tone about halfway between the tones produced by drums made with la‘amia (Crescentia cujete) and niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut palm).
Larger ipu with thicker walls were preferred for drums (and also for containers to hold kapa barkcloth).
The gourd drum is known as pā ipu, or ipu pa‘i, which literally means “gourd to beat.” An ipu heke is a gourd drum with a top section, while an ipu ‘ole is a gourd drum without a top section. A gourd drum with a top section was made by joining two gourds together, with a larger, somewhat elongated gourd on the bottom and a more roundish gourd on top.
The gourds were joined using the gummy sap of ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit). A strip of kapa (tapa) was sometimes wrapped around the area where the gourds were joined.
A loop in the kapa allowed the player to manipulate the drum, which could be hit on the side to produce a sharp, light sound, or the drum itself could be dropped onto the surface below, producing a deeper, somewhat dull tone.
In Polynesia, the double gourd drum was found only in the Hawaiian Islands. It was used to accompany hula and chants.
The hōkiokio is a gourd whistle, or flute, made by putting three holes midway on the gourd, while a hole on the pointed end of the gourd was the one into which air was blown. The gourd whistle, used for entertainment by amorous partners, was also known as the lover’s whistle.
An ancient Hawaiian proverb states: “Pā mai, pā mai ka makani o Hilo; waiho aku i ka ipu iki, hō mai i ka ipu nui.” (“Blow, blow, O winds of Hilo, put away the small containers and give us the large one.”), which is explained to mean, “La‘amaomao, the god of wind, was said to have a wind container called Ipu-a-La‘amomao. When one desires more wind to make the surf roll high, or a kite sail aloft, he makes this appeal.”[v]
Kalo (Colocasia esculenta)
Common name: Taro
Family: Araceae—Philodendron or Aroid Family
[Illustration: Diagram of parts of taro plant (corm, etc.)]
Polynesian legends describe how taro (kalo) existed even before the first humans. One ancient chant recounts how Wākea, the god of the sky, gave birth to his first son, who Wākea then buried near his house because the child was a shapeless mass. However, the next day a taro plant grew up from the location and Wākea named the plant-child Hāloa-naka (long, trembling stem).
Wākea’s second son was a boy that Wākea named Hāloa-naka-lau-kapalili (long-stalk-quaking-trembling-leaf stem). Hāloa was considered to be the first human, thus the taro plant was considered the oldest ancestor of all humans.
Na ali‘i o ke kuamo‘o o Hāloa.
Chiefs of the lineage of Hāloa.
Said of high chiefs whose lineage goes back to ancient times—to Hāloa, son of Wākea. Wākea mated with Ho‘ohokukalani and had two sons, both named Hāloa. The older Hāloa was born a taro, the younger one a man. It was this younger brother that the high chiefs name with pride as their ancestor.
One of the most important crops of ancient Hawai‘i, taro was brought to the Islands by the first Polynesian settlers. Using well-engineered canals called ‘auwai, water was diverted from rivers into lo‘i kalo, the terraced areas where taro was grown. The water was then channeled back into the stream. This irrigation process continues today.
Taro had numerous important uses to the ancient Hawaiians, including as a food source, a bait for ‘ōpelu fish (Decapterus species, mackerel scad), an adhesive to hold pieces of kapa (tapa) together, a dye for kapa, and for numerous medicinal purposes.
The taro plant may reach heights of more than 3 feet (1 m), and has large heart-shaped leaves (lau kalo, or lū‘au). The leaves arise in a cluster from a tuber-like underground corm, which is similar to a large potato. The corm varies in color in different varieties of the plant, and may be bluish lavender, purple, red, white, or yellow.
The taro plant’s large leaves usually grow to about 14 inches (36 cm) long by 8½ inches (22 cm) wide but may grow to more than 2 feet (60 cm) long by 1½ feet (46 cm) wide. The leaves are light to dark green or even purplish in color, sometimes streaked with white.
The taro plant’s leaf stem, known botanically as the petiole, is known in Hawaiian as hā, and may vary in color from green to whitish-green, purple, red or black. The upper surface of the point where the hā attaches to the leaf resembles the appearance of a human navel, explaining the name of this spot on the plant, which is called the piko, the Hawaiian word for navel.
The corm of taro may be cooked (baked, steamed or fried) and eaten like a potato, or mashed and mixed with water to make poi. The cooked corm is also sometimes mashed with butter, like mashed potatoes. Sometimes the cooked corm was simply sliced and eaten.
A pudding-like mix known as kūlolo was made by sweetening grated taro corm with kō (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane) and mixing it with the grated flesh and water of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut). This mixture was wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti), and baked in an imu (underground earthen oven).
All parts of the taro plant are edible when cooked, including the lū‘au (leaves). The leaf stems (hā) were sometimes peeled and cooked. Extreme irritation in the throat and mouth may be caused by the taro plant’s tiny, barbed, needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate unless the plant is thoroughly cooked. The calcium oxalate is contained in bundles of oversized cells known as raphides. This mouth and throat irritation is known in Hawaiian as mane‘o (itchy).
The corm and leaves (lū‘au) of taro are rich in minerals as well as vitamins A and B. The ancient Hawaiians’ good teeth and strong bone structures have been attributed to the phosphorus and calcium in the taro’s corm. The lū‘au (leaves) taste similar to spinach and have higher levels of protein than soy. The lū‘au also contain vitamin C. The plant’s flower, valued for its delicate flavor, was also cooked and eaten.
The poi making process involved using a sharpened ‘opihi (Cellana species, limpet) shell or another shell or a stone to peel the cooked taro corm, which was then broken up and mashed with a stone pounder (pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai) while adding small amounts of water to prevent sticking. There were several types of stone pounders. The most common poi pounder was pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai, with a flared base and a narrow neck with a knob on top to keep the hand from slipping.
Another type of pounder, used on Kaua‘i, was pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai puka, which is referred to as a ring pounder because of the hole through the center that forms an arch that is gripped with the thumbs of both hands. Another variety of poi pounder used on Kaua‘i had a shape like a saddle stirrup. The poi was pounded on boards (papa ku‘i ‘ai) most commonly made from the trunk of ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit).
[Photograph or Illustrations: Person making poi; poi pounder]
Offshoots of a mature taro plant are known as ‘ohā, and they grow in a circle around the parent plant. The ‘ohā eventually grow into mature taro plants producing their own circle of ‘ohā. In this way a single taro plant may eventually produce enough offshoots to fill a lo‘i. The ever-widening circle of taro plants serves as a model for the extended Hawaiian family.
Taro was a staple food of the Polynesians. They brought only an estimated 12 varieties with them to the Hawaiian Islands on their voyaging canoes, eventually cultivated hundreds of varieties of taro. Most of these varieties were grown for poi production and were distinguished from one another by variations in the corm and the petioles (leaf stems). Different taro varieties are adapted to different soil types and island climates, some requiring plenteous water (e.g., kalo wai) while other types (e.g., kalo malo‘o, which means “dry taro”) grow in drier areas. Some varieties were preferred as offerings to the gods, including ipu-o-Lono kea and ipu-o-Lono ‘ula‘ula. Hard poi was placed upon a shrine (usually a stone platform) as part of traditional purification ceremonies, in which a rite was performed and then the poi was consumed.
Much of the taro grown in the Hawaiian Islands today is either Maui lehua or lehua maoli (also called Kaua‘i lehua), two large, productive varieties that have light green leaves and are used to make red (purple) poi. The Maui lehua variety has fewer roots, and so is easier to harvest, and its bigger corms give better yields. However, the lehua maoli variety is considered the premier poi taro and is valued for its taste and its pink-purple color.
In ancient Hawai‘i, red and purple poi were reserved for royalty (ali‘i), while commoners (maka‘āinana) ate gray or white poi. Poi lehua was made from a pinkish-cormed variety known as kalo lehua. Thinned poi (kakale) was used for making kapa barkcloth as an adhesive to join together the layers. At least one variety of poi provided a red dye for kapa.
Calabashes to hold poi were made from ipu (Lagenaria siceraria, bottle gourds), while bowls to hold poi were made from particular types of wood, including kou (Cordia subcordata), milo (Thespesia populnea, portia), and kamani (Calophyllum inophyllum, Alexandrian laurel). These species were preferred for calabashes because their wood doesn’t have tannic acid (found in woods such as koa) that spoiled the poi’s flavor. During journeys, poi was stored in lau hala, leaves of hala (Pandanus tectorius, screwpine), and these food bundles were known as holo ‘ai.
Medicinal Uses of Kalo
Kalo ‘apu is the Hawaiian term for taro used medicinally. ‘Apu is a general term that refers to various medical formulations, including those using taro, uhi (Dioscorea alata, yam), or various herbs.
Varieties of taro preferred for medicinal uses included ‘ula‘ula and pi‘iali‘i, which have reddish corms, and hāpu‘u ke‘oke, manini, and haokea mana, which have whitish corms. Uahi-a-Pele, and ‘āpi‘i varieties were also used medicinally, as well as a white-cormed variety called manini, so named because of the stripes on its leaves that resemble the manini fish.
Used medicinally, the taro corm was not cooked. The corm was mixed with other materials and used as a purgative. One formulation was made by mashing and straining a mixture of: taro corm; kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), a variety of sugarcane preferred for medicinal uses; ripe flesh of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut); and overripe noni (Morinda citrifolia, Indian mulberry). For extra strength, some flesh from the bean pods of kā‘e‘e (Mucuna gigantea subsp. gigantea, sea bean) was added. Eaten with this liquid were steamed taro leaves (lū‘au), as well as cooked leaves of ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato).
E ‘ao lū‘au a kualima.
Offer young taro leaves to the gods five times.
Advice to one who has erred and wishes to rectify his mistake. Young taro leaves often were substituted for pigs when making an offering to the gods. To remove sickness of mind or body, one made five separate offerings of young taro leaves.
A medicinal formulation used as a purgative was prepared by mixing the corm of taro with the sap of nuts of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut). The sap of the taro leaf stem also has medicinal uses, and was applied to cuts in order to help stop the bleeding and begin the healing process.
Poi made from taro was used as part of a medicinal treatment for hānō (asthma) (see Kī), and a treatment for heartburn (see Mai‘a). Taro leaves were used as part of a treatment for debility (see Kukui), while the corm was also used as part of a medicinal formulation that helped bring about sleep (see ‘Uala). A treatment for constipation (see Mai‘a) used the grated flesh of lauloa, said to be the original kalo variety brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians.
Growing and Harvesting Taro
Hanalei, on Kaua‘i’s north shore, currently produces more than 60% of the taro in the Hawaiian Islands that is used for poi. Ancient Hawaiians grew taro in Hanalei Valley for centuries, but beginning in the 1800s the valley’s rich, agricultural lands began to be used for other purposes, including growing coffee, rice, sugarcane, and raising cattle.
From 1836 to 1844, a man named Charles Titcomb attempted to build an industry of silk production with an extensive cocoonery in Hanalei. Titcomb’s Hanalei operation extended along the bank of the Hanalei River about one mile up from the ocean, with at least 25 acres of mulberry trees planted. Titcomb eventually abandoned the enterprise due to a drought in 1840, various insect pests, and labor problems. By 1844, Titcomb transferred his energies to the production of coffee.
With the influx of foreigners and significant changes in traditional native ways of living, the amount of taro grown in the Hawaiian Islands steadily diminished. At one point, even the residents of Hanalei had to import poi from Kalalau Valley along the nearby Nāpali coastline. Around 1880 significant acreage in Hanalei Valley was planted with rice. This continued until the mid-1900s, when taro once again became Hanalei’s main agricultural product.
Harvesting wetland taro is difficult work, requiring the farmer to stand in the water and bend over to pull the plants’ corms out of the mud. The corms weigh from 1 to 3 pounds (.5 to 1.3 kg) and may exert some serious mud-sucking resistance. During harvesting, the leaves are cut off and then the top of the stalk, called the huli, is cut away from the corm. The huli is later replanted, replenishing the lo‘i for another cycle of growth.
E kanu i ka huli ‘oi hā‘ule ka ua.
Plant the taro stalks while there is rain.
Do your work when opportunity affords.
Hawaiian taro farmers produced about six million pounds of taro in 1998 and seven million pounds in 2000. Some of the main food products made from taro and for sale in local stores are poi, taro chips, taro flour and taro pancake mix. Another favorite is taro bread, which is usually blue-purple in color.
Taro is considered an anti-allergenic food, and thus sometimes used as a baby’s first food. People with diabetes who eat a fish and poi diet often have a reduced need for insulin shots.
Chinese sources dating to 100 B.C. mention taro. It was also eaten in ancient Egypt, and later in many other places around the globe, from Africa to Indonesia to Central America. It was only in the Hawaiian Islands, however, that taro cultivation reached such intensive levels.
The Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai‘i: Revised Edition,[vi] recognizes approximately 80 distinct cultivars currently naturalized in the Hawaiian Islands (growing independent of cultivation).
Kamani (Calophyllum inophyllum)
Common Name: Alexandrian Laurel
Family: Clusiaceae—Mangosteen Family
The kamani tree is fairly common at low elevations near the ocean. The Polynesian settlers brought it to Hawai’i as a source of wood and for medicinal uses.
Kamani grows from 26 to 66 feet (8 to 20 m) in height. The kamani’s large leaves are leathery and shiny, with parallel side veins, and grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) long and 3½ inches (9 cm) wide.
Kamani also produces fragrant, white flowers that are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) across, with four sepals and four to eight petals, and a yellow stamen. The flowers grow in clusters.
Kamani also bears green fruit that may exceed 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. The fruit becomes yellowish as they dry, and are sometimes strung into lei. Within the fruit is a bony shell around an oily, white kernel.
The husk of the kamani’s fruit was used to produce a brownish-mauve colored dye. The flowers have an orange-blossom fragrance, and were used by ancient Hawaiians to scent kapa (tapa) barkcloth. A toy whistle musical instrument called an oeoe was made from the kamani nut, and was also made from the shell of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut).
The whistle was made by boring a 3/8 inch (1 cm) hole through the nut and removing the insides. Two smaller holes were made for attaching a cord made of hau (Talipariti tiliaceum), from which the nut was spun in the air producing a high, shrill sound as a result of air entering the hole in the nut.
In ancient Hawai‘i the wood of the kamani was used to make bowls and other dishes. A stone adze and stone chisel was used to hollow out the bowl, which was eventually rubbed smooth with rough lava rocks (‘a‘ā) and then coral (‘āko‘ako‘a).
The bowl was finished by rubbing it with pumice (‘ana) or an ‘ō‘io, which is a special stone used for polishing. The final polishing was accomplished using the skin of a shark or stingray, followed by a rubbing with the oil of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut).
Kamani oil was rubbed on coconut shell bowls and other items to provide a fine polished look. The oil was also placed in stone lamps that were used to provide light.
Kī (Cordyline fruticosa)
Common Name: Ti
Family: Agavaceae—Agave Family
The ti plant may reach heights of up to 12 feet (3.7 m). Ti usually grows upward unbranched (or with just a few branches) with a cluster of leaves at the top somewhat resembling a feather duster. The plant has a slender stem that is ringed with circular markings where previous leaves grew.
Ti’s oblong leaves are smooth and waxy, and may be 1 to 4 feet (30 cm to 1.2 m) long and from 3 to 6½ inches (7 to 16 cm) wide. Ti generally prefers moist semi-shady habitats, such as hala forests, at lower elevations up to about 2,000 feet (610 m).
A historical Hawaiian saying is: “E pale lau‘ī i ko akua ke hiki aku i Kona.” (“Place a shield of ti leaves before your god when you arrive in Kona.”), which was “A message sent by Ka‘ahumanu to Liholiho requesting him to free the kapu of his god Kūkā‘ilimoku. Ka‘ahumanu was at that time striving to abolish the kapu system.”[vii]
Ti leaves vary in color from green to red and pink, and may be edged with a cream or red color, or striped (variegated). The red varieties of ti are modern introductions to the Hawaiian Islands.
Ti produces a loose cluster of purplish-white flowers, each about ½-inch (13 mm) long, emerging up from the leaf cluster. As the flower petals open they reveal a white pistil surrounded by six yellow stamens. The plant also produces green, berry-like fruits that turn yellow and then red as they mature. The fruit encases the plant’s seeds.
The early Polynesian settlers of the Hawaiian Islands often grew ti on the banks of their taro lo‘i. The ti plant is easily propagated by simply cutting sections of stem and sticking them into the ground.
It was primarily the green-leaved ti that was used for spiritual protection and purification by ancient Hawaiians, who revered the plant for its healing power. To ward off evil spirits, braided ti leaf lei were worn horseshoe style.
The narrow, long leaves of the ti plant were used to make sandals, raincoats and hula skirts, and were also used as thatch for houses that lasted up to 40 years in relatively dry areas.
During the process of making kapa barkcloth, strips of bark were wrapped in ti leaves and placed in water to ferment for about ten days between the first and second beatings of the kapa.
Tied to the fisherman’s net for hukilau, or seine fishing, ti leaves were used to attract fish. The root sap of ti was used as an ingredient in the paint for canoe hulls as well as for staining surfboards (papa he‘e nalu). Dried ti leaves knotted at one end were fashioned into a knee-drum beater called kā.
The ti plant was also used to make a carrier for lei. First the ti leaf stalk was broken and turned upside down with the leaves pointing outward. The lei were wound around the stalk, and then the ti leaves were folded up over the lei.
A dried ti leaf was used to secure the folded up ti leaves to the stalk of the plant. The lei could then be carried by holding onto the stalk.
Ancient Hawaiians also made a ti-leaf whistle, called a pū lā‘i. The pū lā‘i was made using a half length of a ti leaf wound in a spiral so that it was wide at the base and narrow at the tip, into which air was blown to produce sound.
Adults (particularly ali‘i) used specially constructed papa hōlua (wooden sleds) to slide down steep hills or stone ramps lined with pili grass (Heteropogon contortus, twisted beardgrass) or flower tassels of kō (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane). Children (kamali‘i) and commoners (maka‘āinana), however, enjoyed sliding down grassy slopes (which are particularly slippery after rains) on a cluster of ti leaves with the stalk of the plant pointing forward between the legs and held onto for steering purposes. This activity was known as hōlua kī or ho‘ohe‘e kī.
Ti leaves were also used for wrapping food, particularly fish, chicken and pork laulau, to be cooked in an imu (underground earthen oven). This is still commonly done today. A layer of ti leaves is sometimes placed over the imu’s hot stones to keep the food from burning.
The starch of pia (Tacca leontopetaloides, Polynesian arrowroot) was mixed with shredded niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut), wrapped in ti leaves and baked in an imu to produce a tasty treat known as haupia.
Also wrapped for cooking in ti leaves were fish, including the native freshwater fishes known as ‘o‘opu (Gobiidae; Eleotridae).
A Hawaiian saying is: “Ka i‘a kā welelau o ke ahi.” (“The fish that lies on the top edge of the fire.”), which refers to “The ‘o‘opu, wrapped in ti leaves and laid on the hot coals.”[viii]
The root of the ti plant was baked in an imu and eaten as a sweet-tasting treat. The sugar fructose in the root caramelizes when baked, becoming a molasses brown. In older plants, the ti’s taproot may grow to a considerable size.
Medicinal Uses of Ti
Ti leaves dipped in cool water were placed on the forehead to treat headaches and fevers, and placed on other parts of the body to alleviate dry fever. Hot stones wrapped in ti leaves soothed sore muscles.
Flowers of the ti plant were sometimes pounded together with other plants, such as the rhizomes of ‘ōlena (Curcuma longa, turmeric) producing a liquid that was strained and used to treat growths in the nose. Mixed with the liquid was the dried powder of naio (Myoporum sandwicense, bastard sandalwood).
Golden hairs of pulu from the hāpu‘u tree fern (Cibotium species) were wrapped in a special piece of kapa (tapa) barkcloth known as māhuna. This pulu ball was dipped into the liquid, and then inserted into the nose so the vapors may be inhaled.
Ti flowers and leaves were also used in mixtures that treated hānō (asthma). A medicinal preparation to alleviate asthma included ti flowers as well as the starchy pith in the trunk of the ‘ama‘u tree fern (Sadleria species) and ‘ēkaha (Asplenium nidus, bird’s nest fern).
These materials were mashed to produce a liquid that was strained and mixed with poi made from kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) or ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato).
After the afflicted person consumed this mixture, it was followed with a purgative. Then the medicine might be repeated, followed by broiled lū‘au with ‘inamona, a relish made from roasted nuts of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut). This was accompanied by repeated doses of tea made from ko‘oko‘olau (Bidens species).
Hānō (asthma) was also treated with leaf buds and flowers of ti pounded together with overripe fruit of noni (Morinda citrifolia, Indian mulberry) as well as large roots of ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato), kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), and ‘ala‘ala wai nui (Peperomia species).
This was mixed with scrapings from the undersides of the leaf bases of ti leaves and then squeezed to produce a liquid that was strained and consumed, often causing vomiting. Another preparation to treat asthma used the leaf buds, tap roots and flowers of ti (see ‘Uhaloa).
Ti had various other medicinal uses, including as part of a preparation to relieve pain (see Hala), and as part of a mouthwash (see ‘Ōlena). The buds of ti were used in a preparation to treat chest colds (see Kauna‘oa), and to treat bladder problems (see Niu).
Ti leaves were used to shield the skin from other medicinal preparations that were applied externally (see Koali ‘Awa). Scrapings off the top of the leaves were also used as part of a preparation to treat chest congestion (see ‘Uala). After Western contact, fermented ti leaves were distilled into an alcoholic beverage called ‘ōkolehao.
[Photograph: Ti Plant]
Wai ‘apu lau kī.
Water in a ti-leaf cup.
When one goes to the upland and needs a cup to dip water from
the stream or spring, he folds a ti leaf to form a dipper.
Kō (Saccharum officinarum)
Common Name: Sugarcane
Family: Poaceae—Grass Family
A large, unbranched member of the grass family, kō is a thick-stemmed plant full of a fibrous, sweet and juicy pulp. The first Polynesian settlers brought kō to Hawai’i as an important source of fiber and sugar, while the leaves were used for thatching material. Charcoal from the leaves and stem of kō was used to make a black dye.
Kō stalks may be more than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, grow up to 20 feet (6 m) tall, and ripen in about 1½ years. The leaves of the plant may be more than 1 foot (30 cm) long and more than 1½ inches (4 cm) wide, with smooth upper and lower surfaces, but sawtooth edges.
The skin of the sugarcane stalk is known as the rind, and may be reddish, yellow, purple or green,[ix] sometimes striped with white. Kō usually blooms in November or December, showing a lavender to rose-colored flower tassel on top that may be 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) tall. The tassel turns a silvery color as it matures.
A Hawaiian proverb states: “Ola a kau kō kea.” (“Lives till the sugar cane tassels.”), which was “said of one who lives until his hair whitens with age.” Tassels of kō are sometimes called Hawaiian Christmas trees, and traditionally have been used as home decorations.
Ancient Hawaiians used the flower of kō for lei, and the tassels were thrown like an arrow in a game similar to darts. This game was played during the ancient Hawaiian harvest festival known as Makahiki.
Makahiki began with the first appearance of the crescent moon following the new moon after the appearance of the constellation Makali‘i (Pleiades) rising in the east after sunset (around the middle of October), and lasted several months. Time was taken away from work for feasts, sports games, and other events in honor of Lono, the god of agricultural fertility.
The early Hawaiian settlers cultivated and named at least 40 varieties of sugarcane. The stalks were usually harvested after about one year, before they tasseled, with the goal of retaining the highest sugar content possible.
The hard outer rind was removed, and then the inner pulp was pounded to break up the fibers, which allowed the juice to be squeezed out by hand. Children were encouraged to chew on the fibrous, peeled cane stalks to strengthen their teeth and gums.
Kō was also used to sweeten preparations made from ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit), mai‘a (Musa species, banana), ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato) and kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro). Nursing children were fed toasted cane.
A pudding-like mix known as kūlolo was made by sweetening the grated corm of kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) with kō and combining it with the grated flesh and juice of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut). This mixture was then wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti), and baked in an imu (underground earthen oven).
The tassels of kō were used in ancient Hawai‘i to line hillsides in order to create a slippery surface for he‘e hōlua (hōlua sledding), which involved riding down a hill on a specially constructed papa hōlua (wooden sled). Pili grass (Heteropogon contortus, twisted beardgrass) was also used to line the slides in order to create a smooth, low-friction surface.
A Hawaiian proverb states: “Pua ke kō, ne‘e i ka he‘e hōlua.” (“When the sugar cane tassels, move to the sledding course.”), which is explained to mean, “The tops of sugar cane were used as a slippery bedding for the sled to slide on.”[x]
Medicinal Uses of Kō
Kō was often used by ancient Hawaiians to sweeten the taste of medicinal preparations, but kō itself also had medicinal properties. Kō varieties most desired for medicinal uses included kō kea, with a white rind, as well as kō honua‘ula and kō lahi, with a reddish or darker colored rind.
As a treatment for deep wounds, young kō leaf buds were pounded together with vines of koali pehu (Ipomoea alba, a post-contact introduction), and a quarter of a niu-shell cup of pa‘akai (sea salt).
The mixture was then wrapped in kapa (tapa) barkcloth and leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) and then broiled and placed on the wound. It was also put on the limbs of those that suffered fractured bones after the limb was set using the dried stem of mai‘a (Musa species, banana).
Kō was used in various formulations to treat hānō (asthma) (see ‘Ilima, ‘Uala, Niu, Ko‘oko‘olau, Pōpolo, ‘Uhaloa, Kī, and Mai‘a sections).
Kō was also used in many other medicinal preparations, including: a treatment for ‘ea (thrush) (see ‘Ōhi‘a ‘Ai and ‘Ilima sections); for a blood purifier (see ‘Ōlena); a pain reliever (see Hala); a purgative (see Kalo); a blood cleaner (see Pōhuehue); for abdominal problems (see Pōpolo); for skin diseases and skin ulcers (see ‘Auhuhu); for headaches (see ‘Awa); for sore throat relief (see ‘Ōhi‘a ‘Ai); for preparations to relieve chest pains and tuberculosis (see Mai‘a), and for a general tonic (see ‘Uhaloa).
Propagation of Kō in Ancient Hawai‘i
Ancient Hawaiians were adept at picking vigorous sections of kō stalk for propagation. These sections were (and still are) referred to as pulapula, and each had two or three nodes.
The leaves were removed, and the pulapula was buried horizontally beneath soil and mulch. As the sprouts rose up the area was repeatedly mulched, and a mound was built up around the growing clump of stalks.
Kō was grown in many areas of ancient Hawai‘i, including along the edges of kalo lo‘i, and near homes.
Commercial Production of Sugarcane
In the 1800s, sugarcane became an important commercial crop in the Hawaiian Islands, and large quantities were produced for export to the United States and other countries.
The rich soil, plenteous irrigation, and hybridizing of the sugarcane plant in the Hawaiian Islands produced some of the highest yields anywhere, exceeding 11 tons (10 mtons) per acre.
Most Hawaiian residents are familiar with the smell of the burning cane fields. This burning is done to get rid of the leaves, leaving the stalks for harvest.
Current commercial varieties of sugarcane are hybrids of S. robustum, S. spontaneum and S. officinarum. S. spontaneum was naturalized on Moloka‘i and O‘ahu, growing in clumps in moist areas at low elevations, and known as wild cane.
Throughout the modern history of the Hawaiian Islands, sugarcane and its merchants have had a significant influence on Hawaiian politics, including in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.
Commercial sugarcane production also dramatically influenced the demographics of the Hawaiian Islands with the importation of hundreds of thousands of laborers to work in the fields. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1854; 1885; 1900-1920.)
The last few decades have seen a marked decline in the sugarcane industry in the Hawaiian Islands. This decline has primarily been the result of competition from other countries where labor and land is less expensive.
Kukui (Aleurites moluccana)
Common Name: Candlenut Tree
Family: Euphorbiaceae—Spurge Family
According to Hawaiian spiritual beliefs, the kukui is kino lau, an earthly form of a supernatural body, and considered to be a sacred manifestation of Lono, the god of agricultural fertility and one of the four major Hawaiian gods.
The kukui tree is the Hawaiian Islands’ official state tree, and its flower is Moloka‘i’s official island emblem. Quite common in the Hawaiian Islands today, the kukui tree may grow to more than 80 feet (24 m) tall and is often used as a shade tree, with a canopy spread that may reach more than 50 feet (15 m). The tree has a large taproot and many shallower lateral roots growing near the ground’s surface.
Kukui grows most commonly in mesic (moist) valleys and ravines, at low elevations up to about 2,300 feet (700 m). In a typical Hawaiian forest where kukui grows, the tree’s leaves are easily noticeable from afar by their distinctive pale green or silvery sheen.
Kukui’s genus name, Aleurites, means “floury,” referring to the whitish covering (hairs) on the plant’s leaves. Known as leaf bloom, these hairs give the kukui leaves the pale green look that makes the tree so distinctive from afar amidst all the other trees in the Hawaiian forest.
[Photograph: Kukui forest distinctively visible from afar (a hillside or ravine with large patches of kukui)]
Kukui leaves are about 8 inches (20 cm) long and about the same width, and may be similar in shape to maple leaves, angularly pointed or tri-lobed, or nearly ovate. The leaves vary markedly in shape in different trees and often on the same tree.
[Illustration: Three distinct variations of kukui leaves as noted above]
Older kukui trees have a thick, rough outer bark, while the inner bark has a reddish, brown sap that gives it a bright tint. This sap is also found in the larger lateral roots of the tree.
Small, greenish-white to creamy white male and female flowers grow in clusters at the ends of the kukui tree’s branches. In ancient times it was said that kukui flowers seen floating in a stream signaled bad weather arriving from that direction.
In each of the tree’s flower clusters, about five or more fruits develop, and each fruit is about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. A single kukui tree may produce about 100 pounds (45 kg) of fruit in a year.
The fruit has a non-fibrous, fleshy green covering, or husk, which turns gray as it matures. Inside this husk is the nut (sometimes two), sheathed in a parchment-like covering. The kukui nut is about the size of a walnut.
After the kukui’s fruit falls to the ground, the husk eventually disintegrates away, but the covering on the nut persists. The kukui nut consists of a hard, bony outer shell that is blackish in color and slightly furrowed.
The shell is flat (blunt) on one end and slightly domed on the other end with a small projection known as the nose. The nut encases a whitish inner kernel.
Kukui Nut Lei
The leaves and the small, greenish to creamy white flowers of kukui (pua kukui) were strung into lei, as were the kukui’s nuts. One common method of making a lei kukui was to braid the leaves with the stems and then insert the flower clusters. (See Kukui in Lei Flowers section, Chapter 3.)
For kukui nut lei, the inside of the nut is removed through a hole in one end, and then the outer surface is finished. A traditional method of finishing the nuts for lei kukui involved filing numerous lengthwise grooves into the outer surface of the nuts.
In ancient Hawai‘i, sea urchin spines were used for files, and sanding was done using the skin of the kala fish (e.g., Naso species, surgeonfish), skin of manō (Carcharhinus species, sharks), and pumice, or ‘ana (Leiodermatium, siliceous sponge).
A piece of kapa (tapa) barkcloth was used to apply kukui nut oil to the finished nuts. Polished kukui nuts remain popular for use in lei. (See Kukui in Seed Lei section, Chapter 3.)
[Illustration: Kukui nut lei]
Kukui Nuts—A Traditional Source of Light
For a long time, kukui nuts were the primary light source for Hawaiians. The nuts were strung together and burned as torches or candles.
The midrib of a leaf of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut) or a stick of ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo) was skewered through the inner kernels of kukui nuts, and then the top kukui nut was set on fire.
Each nut burned for about two or three minutes. Then the kukui candle was inverted to ignite the next nut, and the burned nut was knocked off. Several of these candles might be burned together to produce more light.
A Hawaiian proverb states: “Ua lilo i ke koli kukui a maluhi.” (“Gone lamp-trimming until tired.”), which was “said of one who has gone on an all-night spree. When the top kukui nut on a candle was burned out, it was knocked off and the next nut on the stick allowed to burn.”[xi]
Kukui nuts were also pressed for their oil, and this expressed oil was burned in a stone lamp (poho kukui) to provide lighting. Kukui kernels usually contain about 50% oil, and may contain up to 80% oil.
The Hawaiian word for lantern is kukui hele pō (hele means “to go,” and pō means “night”). This is also referred to in the name for the Chinese lantern tree (Hernandia nymphaeifolia), known in Hawaiian as kukui hele pō Kina (Kina means “Chinese”). (See Kukui Hele Pō Kina in Seed Lei section, Chapter 3.)
Other Traditional Uses of Kukui
The kukui tree also had many other uses in ancient Hawai‘i. The wood of kukui was used to construct canoes, and for making the pale (gunwales) of canoes and fish net floaters.
Kukui nuts were used to make hū, or spinning tops that were propelled using a sliver of ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo) or leaf midrib (nī‘au) of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut) as a stem.
Kukui kernels were also cooked and eaten. The kernels were often prepared to eat by roasting, mashing, and mixing them together with sea salt, making a relish was known as īnamona.
A ancient Hawaiian saying is: “Ka i‘a ka‘a poepoe o Kalapana, ‘īna‘i ‘uala o Kaimū.” (“The round, rolling fish of Kalapana, to be eaten with the sweet potato of Kaimū.”), which refers to “The kukui nut, cooked and eaten as a relish. This is from a ho‘opāpā riddling chant in the story of Kaipalaoa, a boy of Puna, Hawai‘i, who went to Kaua‘i to riddle with the experts there and won.”[xii]
The oil from kukui nuts was mixed with charcoal to create a black paint that was used on canoes, and the nut’s oil was also burned to produce soot that was collected and mixed with the uncooked kukui nut oil for use as a dye for canoes and for kapa. Charcoal from burned kukui nuts was used produce a gray-colored kapa (tapa) barkcloth.
The sap (hili kukui) of the kukui root’s inner bark was used as an ingredient in the paint or stain used on canoe hulls and surfboards. Dye made from kukui was also used for body tattoos, which were applied using a fish bone.
The husk of the immature kukui fruit was used to produce a black or grayish/beige dye. A reddish-brown dye used for coloring cordage made from olonā (Touchardia latifolia), as well as for kapa, was made from the inner bark of kukui’s exposed roots and the tree’s inner bark, which is rich in tannin and was used to tan hides and fishing nets.
This dye was used for soaking fishing lines of olonā to make them less visible to fish, and also to make the line stronger and longer lasting.
Hawaiian fishermen were known to chew kukui kernels and spit the oil onto the surface of the water to provide a temporary clear view of the reef below. This technique was also used to locate and catch octopi.
When spearing reef fish at night, fishermen carried a lama lama, or torch, made from a piece of ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo) with holes bored in the side, and stuffed with dried or roasted kukui nuts that were lit to provide a smoky but constant light to attract fish.
Kukui oil was effective for shining and waterproofing wooden items, such as surfboards (papa he‘e nalu). The oil was also used to grease the runners of papa hōlua (hōlua sleds), which were ridden down specially constructed tracks. Kukui oil was also sometimes poured over the pili grass that lined the steep hōlua sledding track. (See this book’s Introduction for more information about hōlua sledding.)
The hardened resin or sap of the kukui tree is known as pīlali, and had various uses in ancient Hawai‘i. Pīlali was used to catch birds, which were sought after for food and for their plumage.
The plumage was used to make various items of Hawaiian featherwork, including ‘ahu ‘ula (royal capes and cloaks), kāhili (royal feather standards) and other symbols of chiefly rank.
A saying from ancient times was “Pipili no ka pīlali i ke kumu kukui.” (“The pīlali gum sticks to the kukui tree.”), which was “said of one who remains close to a loved one all the time, as a child may cling to the grandparent he loves.”[xiii]
Birds captured for feathers might be killed, or just some of the feathers taken and the bird released. King Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho ‘Iolani) declared that oil of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) be used to clean the sap from the birds’ feet so they wouldn’t stick to the next place they touched down, thus preserving the species so they could continue to be a source of feathers. (See Forest and Mountain Birds of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 7.)
Medicinal Uses of Kukui
Kukui also had various medicinal uses in ancient Hawai‘i. Pounded and baked, the kernel of the kukui nut was used to treat skin sores and ulcers, and was also a very strong cathartic. Raw kukui nut kernels were known for their strong purgative effects, and were used as part of a preparation to treat constipation (see Kalo). The bark of kukui was also used to treat hānō (asthma).
A mother might chew kukui flowers and then give them to her child to treat mouth sores (or ‘ea). Also used to treat ‘ea was the sap (kulukulu‘ā) that gathers in the “well” that forms when one pulls the stem of kukui’s green fruit. As the sap pooled in the well, the mother would dip her finger in it, and then rub it on the inside of the child’s mouth.
A more involved treatment for mouth sores involved first washing the area thoroughly with a liquid obtained by boiling and straining a mixture of water and pounded ‘ahakea (Bobea species).
Then applied to the affected area was a mixture made by broiling immature (green) kukui nutshells that had been wrapped in kī leaves and cooked over embers until well done, and then cooled and mashed with finely powdered lama (Diospyros species, ebony) or ‘ahu‘awa (Cyperus javanicus), as well as the milky sap from ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit). This was applied twice a day to the sore mouth area.
A treatment for general debility included mashed kukui nut kernels, boiled leaves of kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro), fronds of kikawaiō (Christella cyatheoides) and flesh scraped from the plant all mixed together in a calabash. This was eaten along with fish as well as poi made from ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato) mixed with tea made from ko‘oko‘olau (Bidens species).
Cooked kukui kernels were also used in preparations used to treat ‘ea (thrush) and headaches (see ‘Awa). The sap of the kukui nut was also an ingredient in preparations used to treat sick infants (see Koa), to treat bruises and cuts (see ‘Awapuhi Kuahiwi).
Modern Uses of Kukui
For a short time in the 1800s, up to 10,000 gallons (38,000 liters) of kukui oil were exported annually for use as a drying oil in varnishes and paints. Kukui trees were also cut down by Chinese immigrants who grew an edible fungus on the decaying wood.
This edible fungus (Auricularia cornea, or Auricularia auricula) is known by the Hawaiian term pepeiao akua or the common name, Jew’s ear. The fungus was eaten and also exported to China. Both of these commercial uses of the kukui tree eventually failed.
[Photographs: Kukui tree; traditional kukui light burning]
Mai‘a (Musa species)
Common Name: Banana Plant
Family: Musaceae—Banana Family
The banana plant may grow up to 33 feet (10 m) tall with a stem diameter that may exceed 6 inches (15 cm). It has no woody tissue and is actually a giant herb, not a tree. The trunk is comprised of tightly layered, overlapping fibrous leaf sheaths that are arranged spirally.
An ancient Hawaiian saying was “Nui pūmai‘a ‘olohaka o loko.” (“Large banana stalk, all pith inside.”), which was “said of a person with a large physique but with no strength to match it.”[xiv]
Mai‘a’s large leaf blades are thick and smooth with a thick midrib. Soon after emerging, the leaves split along the parallel side veins, giving the leaves a ragged or feathered appearance.
The leaves may be 8 to 12 feet (2.4 to 3.7 m) in length and up to 2 feet (61 cm) wide, smooth and shiny on top but with a waxy “bloom” on the bottom, giving it a frosted appearance. The plant rises up from an underground stem, or corm.
The flowers are long and tubular, borne on a single inflorescence (flower cluster) stalk (two in the māhoe variety), emerging from the center of the leaf blade clusters at the top of the trunk when the plant is about nine to ten months old.
Blooming in successive curved layers, the flowers and fruit bunch are pendant (hanging down) in most varieties. The flowers are arranged in groups, each with two rows. They bloom beneath large bracts (modified leaves) that are purplish-red to green in color.
Male flowers emerge at the tip of the fruit stem, while female flowers grow at the stem’s base. The flowers eventually mature into fruit. After mai‘a bears fruit, it dies. New shoots (keiki) then grow up around the base.
About 60 to 80 days after the fruit stalk emerges, cylindrical fruits develop from the mai‘a’s female flowers. These fruits have skin that varies in color from yellow to red and orange (immature fruit is green), containing flesh that may be cream-colored or more pinkish.
One mai‘a stalk bears a single bunch of bananas, except in the māhoe and hāpai varieties, which may produce two or more bunches. A bunch of bananas consists of a number of “hands,” which are two-row groups of the fruits (fingers) arranged in double rows.
There are hundreds of cultivars of Musa x paradisiaca, including many complex hybrids resulting from thousands of years of cultivation before and during the Polynesian settlement of the Hawaiian Islands. The plants continue to grow wild in many moist to wet valleys of the Hawaiian Islands at elevations up to about 3,000 feet (915 m).
By the time of first Western contact (1778), Hawaiians had cultivated up to 70 different types of bananas. These were mostly cooking bananas, rather than the sweeter type that may be eaten raw.
There are still about 35 types (mostly Musa xparadisiaca, of the normalis and sapientum varieties) growing in the Hawaiian Islands. Most of the persisting varieties of Musa x paradisiaca belong to one of three major groups: iholena, pōpō‘ulu and maoli.
Bananas in the maoli group (11 named varieties) have longer fruit with rounded ends, while bananas in the pōpō‘ulu group (four named varieties) are shorter and stubbier.
Most bananas growing in the Hawaiian Islands today belong to the iholena group, which is identified by the orange to salmon-colored flesh of the fruits (which have tapered ends) and by the leaves’ coppery-edges (particularly on the lower surface of the plant’s unfurling young leaves). The fruit has purple skin mottled with pink.
Two varieties of the iholena group, mai‘a hāpai and mai‘a māhoe, grow a bit different than the rest. The fruit of mai‘a hāpai matures within the trunk, explaining the variety’s Hawaiian name, which means “pregnant banana.”
The stem then splits open to reveal the bananas. The tasty mai‘a māhoe variety has a branched fruit stalk that produces two bunches of fruit rather than one (mai‘a māhoe means “twin banana”). The yellow-skinned fruits of mai‘a māhoe have light salmon-colored flesh.
Many variety names described the appearance of the fruit. Mai‘a puhi (“eel” banana”) gained its name by the eel-like twisting of the young fruit. Mai‘a-ka-ua-lua bananas have a dark green skin with light green spots that are likened to raindrops (mai‘a-ka-ua-lua means “many raindrops” banana).
A post-contact introduction, M. troglodytarum, is also now naturalized in the Hawaiian Islands. This species has been given the Hawaiian name mai‘a hē‘ī (also called mai‘a Polapola, which literally means “mai‘a Borabora,” a Tahitian reference).
Traditional Uses of Mai‘a
The black-trunked mai‘a ‘ele‘ele prefers mountain habitat, and produces orange-fleshed bananas that were cooked and eaten. The black skin of the plant’s trunk was used to make a dye used to imprint designs on mats. Fibers of the stalk of mai‘a lei ‘ula, along with a coconut-leaf needle (mānai), were used to string together lei flowers.
[Illustration: Mai‘a ‘ele‘ele]
Mai‘a lele has a yellowish-green trunk, yellow-skinned fruit, and pinkish flesh and had both medicinal and ceremonial uses (described below). Similar in appearance to mai‘a lele but with plumper fruits is mai‘a puapuanui, which means “big-tailed” banana.
Unlike taro and sweet potatoes, bananas were not extensively cultivated in drop form in ancient Hawai‘i, but instead planted more randomly in various areas.
The plants needed protection from the wind, and were often planted near houses, along the banks of taro patches, on the edges of forest areas and in gulches and ravines. The stalk of the banana plant symbolized man, and was sometimes used as a sacrifice to the gods in place of a human.
Children slid down hills on banana stalks, in imitation of the adult sport of he‘e hōlua (hōlua sledding). The stalks were also used as rollers for canoes, and to line the imu (underground earthen oven).
Banana leaves were laid over the hot embers of the imu to protect the food from being burned. Food was then placed on this layer of leaves, with split banana trunks used to create more steam and mountain ginger to provide fragrance and flavor.
Mai‘a leaves were used as food wrappers, in lei making, as umbrellas, for making simple sandals and for covering altars. The leaves were also used to signal a truce during war. They also used the leaves for wrapping the deceased in preparation for burial. A section of the stalk of the banana plant was cut to make a container in which to store and carry lei.
Dried banana leaves were used to make small enclosures to protect small wauke trees (Broussonetia papyrifera, paper mulberry) being cultivated for use in making kapa (tapa) barkcloth.
During the process of making kapa, banana leaves were used to cover the strips of bark as they cured between the first and second beatings. Buds of the banana flower provided a juice that was used to stain surfboards (papa he‘e nalu) and the hulls of canoes.
Women were forbidden by the kapu system from eating most types of bananas. Women were allowed to eat some yellow flesh varieties such as mai‘a pōpō ‘ula, as well as mai‘a iholena, which is commonly seen today growing wild in montane forest habitats of the Hawaiian Islands. It was considered bad luck to take bananas on a fishing trip or in canoes.
A saying from ancient times is: “‘Inā he moe mai‘a makehewa ka hele i ka lawai‘a.” (“If one dreams of bananas it is useless to go fishing.”)[xv]
Medicinal Uses of Mai‘a
Ancient Hawaiians used the nectar from the flowers of the banana plant as baby food and as a sweetener. Bananas were not only a food source for ancient Hawaiians, but they also had medicinal uses. For example, the stalk of the plant was mashed to create a poultice for injuries.
To treat ‘ea and other diseases afflicting children, at least five varieties of mai‘a are known to have been used, including mai‘a ‘ele‘ele, mai‘a iho lena, mai‘a lele and mai‘a puapuanui.
The root of the shoot of mai‘a lele had various medicinal uses, and the fruit was used as an offering to the gods. In Hawaiian, lele means “altar,” and also means “fly or leap.” The mai‘a lele variety of banana was not planted near dwellings for fear it might cause the residents to “fly” elsewhere.
Mai‘a’s corm, trunk and flowers all produced a sap that was used in medicinal formulations. The sap was mixed with the sap of immature nuts of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) as well as other medicinal ingredients (e.g., ‘alaea, red ocherous soil), and the mixture was applied to the mouth area.
A treatment for hānō (asthma) included young mai‘a of the ‘ihi mākole variety, ripe fruit of noni (Morinda citrifolia, Indian mulberry), bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple), dried and broiled flesh of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut), ‘ala‘ala wai nui pehu (Peperomia species), rhizomes of ‘ōlena (Curcuma longa, turmeric), kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), and ‘alaea (ocherous earth).
These ingredients were mashed and strained to produce a liquid that was put into a calabash. To this was added another liquid that had sat all night in a calabash with pīlali, the hardened sap of the kukui tree (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut).
This mixture was then strained into an ipu (Lagenaria siceraria, bottle gourd). Added to this were the leaves of mau‘u pili hale (thought to be pili grass, Heteropogon contortus), along with ashes produced by burning dried mai‘a leaves.
The resulting medicinal formulation was consumed repeatedly by the afflicted person, who was also given mai‘a lele and mai‘a iho lena, unfermented poi, and cooked fish.
A treatment for heartburn consisted of ashes from the burnt leaves of mai‘a ‘ele‘ele sprinkled onto poi made from kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro), that was washed down with spring water. Very young children and babies that seemed listless were treated with the vitamin-rich sap obtained by nipping the end of the mai‘a flower bud.
A treatment for chest pains utilized the sap from the mai‘a stalk as well as sap from the inner bark of hau (Talipariti tiliaceum). Added to this was powdered ‘alaea (red ocherous soil) as well as juice chewed from kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane).
Also chewed and spit into this mixture was the sap and flesh of leaf shoots of the fern kikawaiō (Christella cyatheoides). The afflicted person drank this preparation in the morning and the evening, along with tea made from moa (Psilotum species) and ko‘oko‘olau (Bidens species).
A treatment for constipation required flesh of ripe fruit of mai‘a koa‘e, whose name literally means “tropic bird” banana. This flesh was placed in a calabash with chewed green kernels of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut). Also added was the grated flesh of lauloa, a type of kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) said to be the original variety brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians.
Another mixture used to treat constipation was prepared with sap scraped from the inner bark of hau (Talipariti tiliaceum) along with chewed leaf buds and flowers of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut)). The two mixtures were then combined, strained, heated with stones, cooled and consumed.
A treatment for tuberculosis consisted of pounded corm of mai‘a pōpōulu mixed with taproot bark of ‘uhaloa (Waltheria indica), bark from the kukui tree (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) and bark from the branches of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple).
Also included were the leaves, leaf buds, and berries of pōpolo (Solanum americanum, glossy nightshade), the red sedge called kohekohe (Eleocharis species, spikerush), and kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane).
This mixture was mashed, strained and heated using hot stones, then cooled and consumed each evening for five days.
[Photograph: Banana Plant]
Milo (Thespesia populnea)
Common Name: Portia Tree
Family: Malvaceae—Mallow Family
This relative of the hau tree may exceed 66 feet (20 m) in height, with thick, gray corrugated bark and a trunk diameter that may exceed 2 feet (61 cm). The leaves of milo are shiny, yellowish-green and heart-shaped, and are about 2 to 12 inches (5 to 30 cm) wide, coming to a narrow point.
Milo bears pale yellow bell-shaped flowers that have a diameter of about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm), with a reddish-purple (maroon) spot at the base. Milo’s flowers bloom most of the year, and usually shrivel and turn a purplish-pink by late in the day.
The fruits of milo are flattened, roundish capsules, brown and woody, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, with five compartments, each of which contains a wooly seed.
In ancient Hawai‘i, milo was used as a shade tree, growing well in the drier lowland areas, such as around the house of King Kamehameha I in Waikīkī. It is still planted today as a shade tree around homes in coastal areas and is found growing naturally at elevations up to about 900 feet (275 m).
A Hawaiian saying states: “He milo ka lā‘au, mimilo ke aloha.” (“Milo is the plant; love goes round and round.”), which was “said of the milo tree when its leaves, blossoms, or seeds were used by a kahuna who practices hana aloha sorcery.”[xvi]
The color of milo’s fine, hardwood varies from cream to tan, reddish-brown or deep pink. The wood of the milo tree was used to make poi bowls, dishes, platters and calabashes.
Bowls were made using a stone adze and chisel, and then rubbed with ‘a‘ā (rough lava stones), ‘āko‘ako‘a (coral) and ‘ana (pumice) or an ‘ōio (a polishing stone). The bowl was then rubbed with the skin of manō (shark) or hīhīmanu (stingray).
The inside of the bowl was sometimes finished with the fine sandpaper-like material of the male inflorescence (flower cluster) of ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit). The outsides were often polished with green leaves of ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo) and oil of the nut of the kukui tree (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut).
Milo also had various medicinal uses in ancient Hawai‘i. The seeds were consumed for their laxative effect. The shell of milo’s fruit was used to produce a yellowish-green dye. Milo also provided oil, and the leaves were reportedly eaten raw and cooked. The fruit should not be eaten.
There is a possibility that milo reached the Hawaiian Islands on its own (indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands), as milo is native to many other Pacific Islands and its seeds are buoyant and saltwater resistant, but no conclusive evidence has proven this conjecture.
Niu (Cocos nucifera)
Common Name: Coconut Palm
Family: Arecaceae—Palm Family
The coconut palm was one of the most useful trees brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the early Polynesian settlers of the Hawaiian Islands. The tree may live more than 80 years and reach heights of more than 100 feet (30 m).
The leaves (fronds) of the coconut palm may be up to 6 feet (2 m) wide and more than 20 feet (6 m) long, with more than 100 leaflets emanating from each side of the leaf’s midrib.
The leaflets may exceed 3-1/3 feet (1 m) in length. The leaf is attached to the tree by a fibrous stem that grows wider at its base where it encircles the trunk.
Niu’s continual bloom of branched flower clusters and fruit begins at about six to ten years of age, and then continues every year throughout the tree’s life. While male flowers are borne along the branches, female flowers grow at the base of the branches.
A tree may produce more than 40 fruits per year. The nut of the coconut palm is nearly triangular in cross section, though generally roundish to oblong in shape with a diameter of about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm). It is one of the biggest seeds of all trees, and takes about nine to ten months to ripen.
The coconut palm’s scientific genus name, Cocos, derives from the Portuguese word “coco,” which means “monkey.” This was originally in reference to the coconut’s three holes, which give it the appearance of a monkey’s face. Coconuts are extremely durable, and may still germinate after four months of floating and drifting in the ocean.
The shell of an immature coconut may be yellowish to orange in color, becoming more grayish as it ripens. Within the coconut shell is a thick, fibrous crust encasing the relatively thin but hard inner shell of the nut, with three pores at one end of the nut.
A Hawaiian saying states: “Wāhi ka niu.” (“Break open the coconut.”), which is explained to mean, “The breaking open of a young fresh coconut for the gods was a sign of piety in ancient times.”[xvii]
Lining the inner shell of ripe nuts is the sweet white pulp, or endosperm (often called coconut meat or flesh). Also within the coconut’s hollow center is a sweet, clear liquid that is often referred to as coconut water, milk or juice.
In ancient Hawai‘i this liquid was referred to as wai niu or wai o ka niu. The edible flesh was grated (olo) using a wa‘u niu, a large cone shell or cowrie that had been cut down and had a serrated end. The grated niu flesh was then squeezed through a piece of niu frond (see Medicinal Uses below).
One traditional use involved shredding coconut and mixing it with the starch of pia (Tacca leontopetaloides, Polynesian arrowroot). This mixture was wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) and baked in an imu (underground earthen oven) to produce a tasty treat known as haupia.
A pudding-like mix known as kūlolo was made by sweetening the grated flesh and water of niu with kō (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane) and blending it with the grated corm of taro (Colocasia esculenta, taro). This mixture was wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) and baked in an imu.
Traditional Uses of Niu
In ancient Hawai‘i, niu leaflets were used as thatching (e.g., for canoe sheds), and were braided into mats, baskets, balls (kinipōpō) and fans, and used to construct small traps to catch shrimp. Niu leaves were used as brooms, and also were slapped against the water to scare fish into nets in the ocean.
The nī‘au, or coconut leaf midrib was also used in a simple but popular child’s game. Known as panapana nī‘au, this game involved bending the midrib (with the blades removed) into a bow, and then releasing it so it sprang away. The leaflet midrib was also used to secure the leaf of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) in the pū lā‘ī, or ti-leaf whistle.
Ancient Hawaiians formed and tamped down the banks of the taro fields (lo‘i) with the thick bases of niu frond stems. The dried flower clusters of the tree were used as garden rakes.
The coconut leaf midrib (nī‘au) was also used to string together kukui nuts for torches, and was used as the center stem of the hū, or spinning top, which was made with the nut of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut).
A coconut-leaflet midrib needle (mānai) was used to string lei. The mānai was made by sharpening the thin end of the leaflet and chewing the thicker end flat, and then piercing a hole in it through which the fiber of hau (Talipariti tiliaceum) or fiber from the stalk of mai‘a (Musa species, banana) could be passed.
Ancient Hawaiians used coconut oil (extracted from the mature flesh) to keep their skin soft, and to treat wooden items such as surfboards (papa he‘e nalu). The oil was also used by fishermen to provide a temporary clear view beneath the water’s surface.
The trunk of the coconut palm had various traditional uses, including for posts to construct homes. The wood of the trunk was also dug out to make small canoes as well as food containers. The husk of the coconut was also burned for use as a fuel.
The fibers of the coconut husk were used to make strong cordage used for various purposes in ancient Hawai‘i. The coarse fiber of the husk was braided into strainers as well as rope known as sennit, or by the Hawaiian term ‘aha.
Saltwater did not weaken or deteriorate this cordage, and so it was used for attaching outriggers to canoes. The husk fibers was also braided into strainers used to filter ‘awa (Piper methysticum, kava) and other preparations.
Coconuts provided the early settlers of the Hawaiian Islands with both food and drink, though in ancient Hawai‘i drinking coconut milk or eating the meat was kapu (forbidden) for women.
Today the meat of the coconut is often grated to spread on cakes and other food. A coconut takes about nine to ten months to mature. One coconut yields about 1/3 pound (.15 kg) of shredded coconut.
[Illustration: Coconut products]
In ancient Hawai‘i the niu nutshell was fashioned into bowls, cups, spoons, scrapers, fishhooks and musical instruments as well as other items. Bowls made from the coconut shell included poi bowls, and the cups included ‘awa drinking cups.
After the nut was cut to the proper shape and the insides cleaned out, the outside of the utensil was then polished smooth using coral and sandstone, and then leaves of ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit) and ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo).
The final polish was achieved by rubbing the outside of the nut with oil from kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) or kamani (Calophyllum inophyllum, Alexandrian laurel).
An ancient Hawaiian proverb states: “O ka ‘a‘ama holo paki pōhaku, e pa‘a ana ia i ka ‘ahele pulu niu.” (“The crab that runs about on a rocky cliff will surely be caught with a snare of coconut fibers.”), which is said to mean, “He who goes where he tempts trouble is bound to suffer.”[xviii]
The god Kāne was honored in ceremonies in which the shell container, ipu-o-Kāne, was made from a niu variety known as niu hiwa, which has a black shell and dark green husk.
The niu hiwa variety was one of two varieties of coconut brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the ancient Polynesians, and it was used for cooking as well as for medicinal and ceremonial uses.
The other variety introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesian settlers was niu lelo, which has reddish fruit and a yellow shell. Niu lelo was not used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.
The base of the niu trunk was used to make the drum known as pahu hula. After a section of the base was cut, the outside was trimmed and then the trunk was dug out from the top for about two-thirds of the height of the section, creating a chamber allowing resonance. The other end of the trunk was also hollowed out, leaving a convex septum, or diaphragm.
The belly skin of a shark was then stretched over the top, which was smoothed down so the skin could be attached properly, using sennit tautening cords wound through one or two rows of regularly spaced holes, and then attached near the base of the drum.
Some drums utilized cordage made from olonā (Touchardia latifolia) wound through the holes in the skin. Then sennit braid was used to tauten the drum head by wrapping it around the olonā and attaching it to the lower part of the base. Some bases were carved with elaborate zigzag patterns, rows of arches or human figures.
The shell of the coconut was used by ancient Hawaiians to make a small drum known as a pūniu, or coconut knee drum. Found only in the Hawaiian Islands, a pūniu was made by first cutting off the stem portion of the nut near the coconut’s widest point and then polishing the outside smooth.
Stretched over the opening was the skin of kala (Naso species, surgeonfish), which was favored because of its tiny scales. Tautening cords for the skin were attached to a ring (pō‘aha) of material (usually kapa or sennit) fitted onto the outside of the shell.
As with the pahu hula, a cord of olonā (Touchardia latifolia) was sometimes used through the holes in the skin, and then this was attached to the base using tautening cords. Braided sennit cords were also attached to the pō‘aha, and used to tie the pūniu to the leg of the player of the drum, just above the knee.
A beater, or kā, for the pūniu was made using two-ply sennit cord or dried leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) knotted at one end and then held by the other end so that the knotted area could be tapped against the drumhead. Traditionally this is done with the right hand to produce staccato notes on the pūniu, while the left fist, palm or fingertips produce deep base tones on the pahu hula.
[Illustration: Musician playing pahu hula and pūniu]
Other Coconut Instruments
The nī‘au kani, or Jew’s harp was made using a stiff, dried piece of coconut leaf midrib (nī‘au) as a reed (vibrator), attached to a piece of ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, bamboo) or thin wood, which had a longitudinal cut at one end.
The reed was secured over the longitudinal slit so that it extended beyond the wood or bamboo base. With the left hand the instrument was held up to the musician’s mouth so that air could be projected along the length of the instrument while the reed was flipped with the right hand.
[Illustration: Nī‘au kani; oeoe]
A coconut-shell bull-roarer, known as an oeoe, was made by removing the nuts contents through a hole in the end, and then making two smaller holes, one on each side of the larger hole.
Sennit was threaded through the smaller holes, and used to twirl the nut in the air. This produced the deep roaring sound as a result of the air being trapped in the swinging nut.
Niu maka o nōla‘ela‘e.
Green coconuts for a clear vision.
In ancient days the water of young coconuts (niu hiwa a Kāne) was
used by priests in divination.
Medicinal Uses of Niu
At the base of the young leaves of the coconut palm is a fibrous sheath. This pliable, fabric-like material was scraped of its debris to reveal a cheesecloth type material used for squeezing the grated flesh of niu as well as the juice (sap) from various mashed plant materials that were used for medicinal purposes (see ‘Auhuhu, ‘Awapuhi Kuahiwi and Hau sections). This material was also used to wrap bait for fishing.
For bad cases of hānō (asthma), dried mature niu flesh was mixed with leaves and leaf buds of naio (Myoporum sandwicense, bastard sandalwood), ‘ākia (Wikstroemia species), bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple), bark from roots of ‘uhaloa (Waltheria indica), and kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane).
These ingredients were mashed and strained to produce a liquid that was consumed by the afflicted person, who was to lie face down while consuming it.
A treatment for bladder problems was made by mixing niu water with mashed ‘awa hiwa, ‘awa mō‘i, and ‘awa papa (varieties of Piper methysticum, kava), along with bracts (modified leaves) from the stem bases of makaloa (Cyperus laevigatus), whitish sections of buds of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti), rhizomes of ‘ōlena (Curcuma longa, turmeric), ‘alaea (ocherous earth), and gray pālolo (clay).
This mixture was heated with hot stones and consumed twice a day, along with spring water and tea made from ko‘oko‘olau (Bidens species).
[Photograph: Coconut Palm]
Noni (Morinda citrifolia)
Common Name: Indian Mulberry
Family: Rubiaceae—Coffee Family
Noni may grow to more than 20 feet (6 m) in height, but in harsher conditions (e.g., on lava flows) it may grow as a small shrub. Noni’s glossy leaves are oval to elliptical in shape, and deep-veined. The leaves are 6 to 18 inches (20 to 45 cm) long and 2¾ to 10 inches (7 to 25 cm) wide.
Noni’s small, tubular flowers are about 1/3-inch (1 cm) long with white, 5- to 7-lobed corolla. The flowers are clustered into rounded heads, which produce warty-looking compound fruits.
When mature, noni fruit is pale yellowish-white in color, with solid, whitish-yellow flesh. The ripe fruit is well known for its foul, fetid smell as well as its unpleasant taste. The fruit contains oblong, reddish-brown seeds that are attached to small air sacs. These air sacs provide a flotation mechanism that has aided in the plant’s wide dispersal.
Noni is in the coffee family, and grows well in dry coastal habitat but may also grow in moister forest areas, including lowland forest habitat. It also grows well in resident’s yards and at various locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Traditional Uses of Noni
Noni is often found near ancient Hawaiian sites where it was planted by the early Hawaiian settlers for traditional and medicinal uses. Ancient Hawaiians ate the immature noni fruit during times of food scarcity.
Noni was also used to create dyes (hili noni) for kapa (tapa) barkcloth. The inner bark of the plant’s trunk and root were used to make red and yellow dyes (red when lime was added).
An ancient Hawaiian proverb states, “He noni no Kaualehu, he pūhai a‘a.” (“It is a noni tree of Kaualehu whose roots are in shallow ground.”), which was “said of a person whose knowledge is shallow. The noni root from shallow ground does not make as good a dye as that from deep ground.”[xix]
Medicinal Uses of Noni
Ancient Hawaiians utilized noni for various medicinal preparations. The fruit of noni was thoroughly pounded and mashed, and then squeezed and strained to extract the medicinally valued sap.
The sap of the fruit of noni was also added to various medicinal formulations, including an enema made from the inner bark of hau (Talipariti tiliaceum) as well as an insecticide used on the scalp and hair.
Despite noni’s disagreeable aroma and taste, the fruit was also used to make a tonic known for its elixir effects.
The mashed fruit of noni (perhaps with the seeds first removed) was applied to boils and skin problems as a poultice. The noni pulp was held in place with a ring of kapa (tapa) barkcloth around the affected area. This ring of kapa was filled with the pulp, and then a wider piece of kapa was wrapped around the whole area like a bandage.
Unripe noni fruit was pounded and placed on broken limbs or compound fractures as well as on deep cuts. Noni leaves, either fresh or dried, were also used to make tea that was valued as a tonic.
A drink called ‘aumiki or ‘aumiki noni was consumed after drinking ‘awa (Piper methysticum, kava). It was made with the juice of the noni fruit and water, and was taken to counter any negative effects the ‘awa might produce.
‘Aumiki ‘awa was consumed as a treatment for tuberculosis. Noni fruit and flowers were consumed as a treatment for bladder and kidney disorders.
Noni was also used in various other medicinal preparations, including: a mouthwash (see ‘Ōlena); a treatment for chest pain (see Hala); a treatment for ‘ea (thrush) (see ‘Ilima); a formulation used to clean the blood (see Pōhuehue); as part of a general tonic (see ‘Uhaloa); a mixture used to sooth aching joints (see ‘Awapuhi Kuahiwi); as part of a purgative (see Kalo); and as part of various treatments used to treat hānō (asthma) (see Kī, Mai‘ā, Pōpolo and ‘Uhaloa sections).
Modern Uses of Noni
Noni continues to be used medicinally today, particularly among Asian Pacific Island cultures, and various preparations are sold in health food stores. Often these preparations are in the form of noni juice, which is valued for alleviating a variety of internal ills.
Noni sap is used by some as a treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, bowel problems, kidney problems and some forms of cancer. Recently scientific investigations at the University of Hawai‘i’s Cancer Research Center have begun to explore noni’s effectiveness in treating cancer (it has stopped cancer in the laboratory).
One way noni sap is extracted today is by placing the mature fruit in a glass jar in the sun, where the fruit ferments and exudes the liquefied extract (sap).
Noni leaves are also still used to make a cleansing tea, and the leaves may be heated (wilted) over a flame and then applied to cysts or other growths on the skin. The pulp of the fruit is sometimes used for skin lesions, and for eliminating head lice (‘ukus).
Modern day scientists have isolated the noni fruit’s active ingredient, which is called morindin. Morindin is believed to be responsible for much of noni’s healing properties, which have long been appreciated by native Pacific Island cultures.
‘Ohe Hawai‘i (Schizostachyum glaucifolium)
Common Name: Bamboo
Family: Poaceae—Grass Family
The Hawaiian word ‘ohe refers to all types of bamboo. ‘Ohe Hawai‘i refers specifically to Schizostachyum glaucifolium, a species with particularly large leaves that are flat and pointed, and covered with whitish bloom. The stems have hollow internodes, green joints, and soft wood.
Many consider Schizostachyum glaucifolium to be a native Hawaiian species, and it is listed as native in Pukui and Elbert’s Hawaiian Dictionary (1986). However, according to the Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai‘i: Revised Edition,[xx] Schizostachyum glaucifolium is “possibly a Polynesian introduction or perhaps indigenous” and “is believed to be a Polynesian introduction.”
Growing in clumps and small groves, ‘ohe Hawai‘i may reach a height of up to 39 feet (12 m) tall, with a base diameter of up to 2.5 inches (6 cm). ‘Ohe Hawai‘i is found on the islands of Hawai‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, Kaua‘i and O‘ahu in shady valley habitat, often near streams, at elevations from 200 to 900 feet (60 to 275 m).
Bamboo Musical Instruments
The soft wood of ‘ohe Hawai‘i was favored for making pū‘ili, or split-bamboo rattles. These instruments were constructed by slitting a section of bamboo lengthwise numerous times around its circumference.
Every other slat may be removed to improve the sound-making qualities of the pū‘ili. Performers traditionally sit or kneel in two rows facing each other.
[Photograph: Hula pū‘ili]
Ancient Hawaiians used the hollow stems of ‘ohe to make flutes, which are known by the Hawaiian term ‘ohe kani, which means, “playing bamboo.” A node and an internode of ‘ohe was also used to make the ‘ohe hano ihu, or bamboo nose flute (ihu means “nose” while hano means “flute.”
‘Ohe was also the preferred type of bamboo (better than later introduced varieties) for creating the musical instruments known as ‘ohe kā‘eke‘eke (stamping tubes) or pahūpahū (bamboo pipes), consisting of a section of bamboo including an internode.
The sections of bamboo produced different tones depending upon their diameters and lengths. Accompaniment for hula may include several performers, with each performer holding one kā‘eke‘eke in each hand and tapping the closed end down onto a hard surface.
Ohe was also used to make a musical instrument known as the nī‘au kani, or Jew’s harp (see Niu).
The ashes of a small-leafed variety of bamboo called ‘ohe lau li‘ili‘i had medicinal uses, including as a preparation to treat bruises and cuts.
The sap of the rhizomes of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi (Zingiber zerumbet, shampoo ginger) and kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) were used in this preparation (see ‘Awapuhi Kuahiwi).
Other Traditional Uses
The leaves of ‘ohe were used to polish wooden bowls and cups (see Milo and Niu sections). A torch (lama lama) used to attract fish was made by boring holes in the side of a section of bamboo and stuffing it with dried or roasted nuts of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut). (See Kukui section for more information about the lama lama).
Thin pieces of bamboo were used as knives, or cutters (pahi); and as mesh gauges (haha kā ‘upena). ‘Ohe was also used to construct fishing nets. Stoking a fire was done by blowing air through an ‘ohe tube onto the embers.
Ke‘a pua is a whip stick and dart game in which sugarcane tassels are propelled using a stick of ‘ohe and cordage made from olonā (Touchardia latifolia). A sliver of ‘ohe was used as the central stem of a hū, or spinning top, made from the nut of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut).
A splinter of bamboo was sometimes used instead of coconut leaf midrib (nī‘au) for stringing nuts of kuku (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut), which were burned to provide light. ‘Ohe was also used to construct the cross pieces of the papa hōlua (hōlua sled).
In early post-contact times, intricate geometric patterns were stamped onto kapa (tapa) barkcloth using a highly refined method of printing with bamboo stamps known as ‘ohe kāpala, which means “printing bamboo.”
[Photograph: ‘Ohe Hawai‘i]
‘Ōhi‘a ‘Ai (Syzgium malaccense)
Common Name: Mountain Apple
Family: Myrtaceae—Myrtle Family
Known as the mountain apple tree, ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai may grow to more than 82 feet (25m) in height. ‘Ōhi‘a ‘ai has smooth and somewhat flaky grayish-brown mottled bark and shiny, dark green leaves that are large, broad, and oval-shaped. The leaves may be up to 15 inches (38 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide.
The flowers of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai bloom in March or April, growing on short stems from the branches and trunk. It is the stamens of the ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai blossom that provide the brilliant cerise, red, or rose-pink colors and the pom-pom appearance. ‘Ōhi‘a ‘ai’s tufted, tassel-like flower blossoms resemble those of the ‘ōhi‘a lehua tree.
An ancient Hawaiian saying is: “Nāwele ka maka o Hinaulu‘ōhi‘a.” (“Pale is the face of Hinaulu‘ōhi‘a.”), which was “said of the pink rim around the blossom end of the white mountain apple. Refers to the goddess Hina.”[xxi]
‘Ōhi‘a ‘ai also produces apple-like fruit with thin, pink to red (crimson) skin. The fruits, known as mountain apples, are about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and about the size of a tomato, but more bell-shaped.
[Photograph: Mountain apple]
Each fruit contains slightly sweet, white flesh that is very crisp and juicy. The fruit also contains a single hard, round seed that may be up to ¾-inch (2 cm) in diameter.
The tasty, thin-skinned fruit of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai ripens around June and have a smooth texture that is similar to pears. In ancient Hawai‘i the fruits were often split and dried in the sun. The fruit was dried by splitting it and stringing it up on splinters of ‘ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium) or the midrib (nī‘au) of a leaf of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut).
Since its introduction to the Hawaiian Islands by the early Polynesian settlers, ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai has become naturalized over a wide array of low elevation mesic (moist) forest habitats, particularly in windward valleys at elevations less than 1,640 feet (500 m) where it often grows in groves.
A seedless variety of ‘ohi‘a ‘ai, with white fruits and flowers, is a post-contact introduction to the Hawaiian Islands.
The inner bark of the trunk of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai was used to produce a brown dye while the wood of the tree was used for house posts and rafters. The wood was also used for construction of heiau (sacred places of worship) and for carvings of religious idols.
Medicinal Uses of ‘Ōhi‘a ‘Ai
One medicinal preparation utilizing the bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai was used to treat ‘ea (thrush) as well as other diseases affecting children.
This preparation was made with various other plant ingredients, including leaves, leaf buds and flowers of ‘uhaloa (Waltheria indica); kō honua‘ula (Saccharum officinarum, a variety of sugarcane with a dark brown-red rind); young leaves (liko) of ‘ōhi‘a lehua (Metrosideros species); flowers of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) and leaf buds and leaves of the creeping heliotrope, hinahina kū kahakai (Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteneum).
A post-contact addition to this preparation included buds from ‘aka‘akai ‘oliana (Allium species, a variety of onion). All of these ingredients were pounded and mashed together, and then squeezed and strained to produce a liquid that was consumed by the afflicted child.
The bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai was chewed to alleviate a sore throat. It was also mixed with moa (Psilotum species) and kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), and then mashed, squeezed, strained and mixed with water to produce a mouthwash. ‘Ōhi‘a bark was also mashed together with pa‘akai (sea salt) and squeezed to produce a liquid that was poured into wounds, causing a burning feeling that was said to be healing.
Skin rashes and disorders were treated with a preparation made from ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai bark along with all parts of the vine ‘awikiwiki (Canavalia species) and the native ‘ihi (Portulaca species, purslane). These ingredients were pounded together, heated in water, and then strained and cooled to produce the medicine, which was applied externally.
Other medicinal uses of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai by the early Hawaiian settlers included treatments for: chest pain (see Hala); abdominal problems (see Pōpolo); chills (see ‘Awa); tuberculosis (see Mai‘a); and hānō (asthma) (see Mai‘a, Niu, and ‘Uala sections). ‘Ōhi‘a ‘ai was also an ingredient in a preparation used as a blood purifier (see ‘Ōlena).
[Photograph: ‘Ōhi‘a ‘Ai]
‘Ōlena (Curcuma longa)
Common Name: Turmeric
Family: Zingiberaceae—Ginger Family
‘Ōlena blooms in summer, and then in the fall the leaves die back. The plant goes into a dormant stage during the winter and new leaves rise up from the roots again in spring. Around mid to late summer, white (tinged with green) flower stalks rise separately from the leave stalks.
Clusters (tufts) of the thin, light green leaves may rise more than 5 feet (1.5 m) up from the plant’s yellow underground stems (rhizomes). The leaves may be more than 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide and 8 inches (20 cm) long.
The plant also sends up, from the center of the leaf cluster, an inflorescence (flower cluster) consisting of a cylindrical head. Atop a long stem, this cylindrical head may be up to 8 inches (20 cm) long and 3 inches (8 cm) wide, and produces pale yellow flowers up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. The corolla of the flower is pink to yellow or greenish in color.
Traditional Uses of ‘Ōlena
The dark yellow to orange rhizomes (underground stems) of ‘ōlena may be up to 1½ inches (4 cm) wide. In ancient Hawai‘i, ‘ōlena rhizomes were used in religious ceremonies and as a purifying agent. ‘Ōlena rhizomes were also used as a dye for kapa, providing some of the most striking gold, mustard and yellow colors.
The dye from ‘ōlena was made with the dried and powdered underground rhizomes. One use of the color was for dying long, yellow kapa (tapa) barkcloth dresses. To get the purest and brightest colors, only the finest, white kapa backcloth was used.
‘Ōlena dye was also used for malo (male loin cloths) that were reserved for ali‘i (chiefs and royalty). The red-brown wood of lama (Diospyros species, ebony) was sometimes wrapped in yellow, ‘ōlena-scented kapa barkcloth and placed on the hula altar as a symbol of enlightenment, and to represent Laka, the hula goddess (see Lama).
‘Ōlena is the same substance that is today marketed as turmeric (one of the main ingredients in curry powder, and what makes it orange). While the interior of the rhizome of culinary ginger species are white, the interior of the rhizomes of ‘ōlena are canary-yellow when the rhizomes are young, changing to gold and then a mustard color as the plant matures.
Medicinal Uses of ‘Ōlena
A medicinal formulation used to treat a variety of ills and also used as a blood purifier was made by mashing and pounding ‘ōlena rhizomes along with the bark of koa (Acacia koa) and ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple), the taproot of the endemic pāwale (Rumex giganteus), and kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane).
This mash was squeezed to produce a liquid that was then consumed. Sap from the ‘ōlena rhizome was used to treat pepeiao ‘eha, or earaches.
Sinus problems were treated with a preparation made by mashing together flower buds and rhizomes of ‘awapuhi kuahiwi (Zingiber zerumbet, shampoo ginger), along with rhizomes of ‘ōlena, and kō kea (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane). These ingredients were pounded and squeezed to produce a liquid, to which was added sap from ‘awapuhi kuahiwi flower heads.
Pulu, the silky fluff produced by hāpu‘u tree ferns (Cibotium species) were used to absorb the liquid. This pulu might be wrapped in kapa so the afflicted person could repeatedly inhale the fumes throughout the day.
A mouthwash treatment might accompany the previous treatment. This mouthwash was made from flowers of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) and leaves of moa holokula (Psilotum species) along with the bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple) and kukui.
These ingredients were pounded together and mixed with the water of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut). Another preparation used the same ingredients minus the water of the niu, but adding instead the meat of niu, along with ripe fruit of noni (Morinda citrifolia, Indian mulberry) and burnt kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti), producing a liquid that was consumed.
‘Ōlena also had other medicinal uses in ancient Hawai‘i, including as part of a treatment for hānō (asthma) (see Mai‘a), and a treatment for bladder problems (see Niu).
The powdered rhizomes of ‘ōlena were cultivated for thousands of years in India, and as early as the 8th century B.C. in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Today the plant is naturalized in some areas of the Hawaiian Islands, particularly on Hawai‘i Island, Maui and Moloka‘i, where it was formerly cultivated by the ancient Hawaiians.
Pia (Tacca leontopetaloides)
Common Name: Polynesian Arrowroot
Family: Taccaceae—Tacca Family
In ancient Hawai‘i the tubers of pia were used for both food (in times of food scarcity) and also for medicinal purposes. The tubers of pia are roundish in shape (sometimes more flattened), and somewhat similar to a potato, with a white, hard interior.
The starchy, thin-skinned tubers of pia are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and up to 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter, emerging from a thick, downward-growing rhizome, near the surface or up to 20 inches (51 cm) deep. The bulbous tubers give rise to stems with usually just a few leaves.
The broad, oblong leaves of pia may be from 12 to 28 inches (30 to 71 cm) long and up to 47 inches (1.2 m) wide. The leaves grow on petioles (leaf stems) from 1 to 3 feet (30 to 91 cm) long emerging directly up from the underground tubers.
The 3-clefted, much-divided leaves of pia are somewhat similar in shape to papaya leaves. Pia’s leaves die back during autumn and winter and the tuber lies dormant. In spring new leaves arise and more tubers are formed.
Pia also produces white flowerheads on a stalk up to 3 feet (91 cm) tall. The stalk is topped by an inflorescence (flower cluster) that produces 36 or more green and purplish flowers surrounded by 6 to 12 green bracts (modified leaves). Numerous threadlike bractlets, each 4 to 9 inches (10 to 23 cm) long, hang down from the flowerhead.
A Polynesian introduction, the plant prefers low elevation habitats up to about 1,000 feet (300 m). Today pia is naturalized in the Hawaiian Islands but not common, and may be found growing wild in low elevation, moist forest areas.
Traditional Uses of Pia
Ancient Hawaiians often grew pia near taro patches (lo‘i kalo) and harvested the pia tubers for various uses. First the tubers were grated and then soaked so the starch would settle out. The water was then poured off and more fresh water added. This process of repeatedly rinsing with fresh water to remove the bitterness is known as hulialana.
The pia starch was then strained through pounded fibers of ‘ahu‘awa (Cyperus javanicus) to remove the larger pieces. The resulting starchy material was formed into cakes, which were then sun-dried.
Alternatively, the paste was spread out onto a flat rock and then scraped off and pounded into a fine powder of dry starch that was moistened again when used.
One traditional use of pia starch was mixing it with shredded coconut, wrapping the mixture in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) and baking it in an imu (underground earthen oven) to produce a tasty treat known as haupia.
The inner kernel of the raw nut of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) was used as a purgative to treat constipation, but when the reaction to this treatment was too strong it caused diarrhea.
To remedy this, a small piece of pia tuber was chewed with poi until the texture was smooth. This was swallowed and washed down with water, with ‘alaea or red ocherous earth added in severe cases. This was also a treatment for dysentery.
Pia has been cultivated commercially in tropical locations as a source of arrowroot starch. It may be used like cornstarch as well as laundry starch.
‘Uala (Ipomoea batatas)
Common Name: Sweet Potato
Family: Convolvulaceae—Morning Glory Family
The sweet potato was traditionally a staple food throughout much of ancient Polynesia. A perennial vine (kā) growing at elevations up to 1,500 feet (450 m), the sweet potato requires less care to grow than kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) and also grows in drier areas. The vine may be up to 13 feet (4 m) long, though some varieties grow more like a bush.
The dark green leaves of the sweet potato plant are veined on the underside, and may be 3- to 7-lobed, angled, or heart-shaped. The leaves may be 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15) cm long.
The sweet potato plant also produces tubular, lavender-pink flowers that are narrow at the base spreading wider at the top. The flowers bloom mostly between November and April.
An ancient Hawaiian saying was: “Na pu‘e ‘uwala ‘īna‘i o ke ala loa.” (“The sweet-potato mounds that provide for a long journey.”). which was “said of a patch of sweet potatoes whose crops are reserved for a voyage or journey.”[xxii]
Extensively cultivated by the early Polynesian settlers of the Hawaiian Islands, the sweet potato is now naturalized in many areas where it was traditionally planted, and also grows in many disturbed areas (e.g., old dump sites). The plant is very adaptable to many different soil types, and grows well in particularly dry regions, such as Ni‘ihau, where it served as a staple food.
Different varieties of sweet potatoes have skin and flesh colors ranging from pinkish to pinkish-red, purple, orangish or cream-colored. The Polynesian settlers brought relatively few ‘uala varieties to the Hawaiian Islands. The number of varieties increased greatly, however, through cross-pollination, hybridization and primarily through sporting, or mutations.
By the time of Western contact, Hawaiians recognized an estimated 230 cultivars of ‘uala, distinguished by differences in the leaf, petioles, and size, shape and flesh of the enlarged root, or tuber. Only 24 varieties are known to persist today.
One ‘uala variety is named pia because its flesh resembles another Polynesian-introduced plant of the same name. Uahi-a-Pele (smoke of Pele) is a sweet potato variety that got its name due to the dusky color of its leaf.
[Photograph: Close-up of a sweet potato]
While taro may mature in 9 to 18 months, sweet potatoes may be ready for consumption in less than six months, and sometimes as soon as three months. Both the greens and the tuberous root of the sweet potato plant may be eaten.
In ancient Hawai‘i, sweet potatoes were often cooked in an imu (underground earthen oven), and then peeled, mashed, and stirred with water to make sweet potato poi.
Roasted, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes were also mixed with the cream of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut) to make piele ‘uala, a pudding that was wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) and cooked in an imu.
‘Uala’s young leaves (palula) and stem tips were also eaten. The vines of ‘uala were sometimes used beneath lau hala mats to provide extra cushion, and sweet potatoes were used by fishermen to attract the baitfish, ‘opelu (Decapterus pinnulatus, mackerel scad).
Fermented sweet potatoes produced ‘uala ‘awa‘awa, or sweet potato beer. The leftover peelings and vines of the plant were fed to pigs.
Propagation of ‘uala in ancient Hawai‘i was done primarily by planting cuttings (lau ‘uala) which would then develop rootlets (ki‘u). The cuttings were acquired by cutting the last foot or so from the tip of the vine and then removing the leaves, except for a few at the tip.
The cuttings were placed in moist soil, usually at the beginning of the waxing moon’s dark phase, a time generally favored for planting crops. The cuttings were usually planted in mounds (pu‘e), with two or three cuttings planted in each mound.
‘Uala also had various medicinal uses in ancient Hawai‘i. A treatment for hānō (asthma) utilized the yellow-orange flesh of a variety known as ‘uala kihi. This was mashed together with the bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple), the root of ‘uhaloa (Waltheria indica), juice of kō honua‘ula (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), and hinahina kū kahakai (Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum).
The mixture was then strained and heated. The afflicted person consumed the liquid (while lying face down) twice a day for five days, along with copious amounts of tea made from ko‘oko‘olau (Bidens species).
Another traditional use of ‘uala was employed by nursing mothers. The mother would wear an open lei of ‘uala, or would slap the vines down onto her breasts in the belief that the milky sap of the plant would increase the milk flow.
To help a person sleep, a mixture was prepared using the flesh of ‘uala mōhihi (Ipomoea batatas) and kalo pi‘iali‘i (Colocasia esculenta, taro), along with stems of kikawaiō (Christella cyatheoides) and the inner bark of hau (Talipariti tiliaceum) and spring water. This was strained and consumed in the evening.
The grated flesh of a sweet potato variety called ‘uala kiko nui (whose suffix means “large spot,” and refers to a bellybutton like mark on the potato), was mixed with the scrapings off the top of the leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti) and spring water, and then the mixture was strained and consumed to treat chest congestion.
This treatment also included consuming mai‘a lele (whose name literally means “altar banana,” as it was often used for offerings and planted near altars to shade them), along with brackish water.
[Photograph: Sweet potato plant]
Uhi (Dioscorea alata)
Common Name: Yam
Family: Dioscoreaceae—Yam Family
The yam plant has light green, heart-shaped leaves and a square stem that has green or reddish ribbon-like wings. More seasonal than the sweet potato, yams sprout in March and mature around October. The plant may die off around December but the underground tubers stay alive and may be left in the ground longer.
Like kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) and ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato), the underground portion of the plant (the tuber) was cooked in an imu (underground earthen oven) and used as a food source by ancient Hawaiians. Though somewhat similar to sweet potatoes, yams were considered inferior in taste and texture, and so they were not made into poi.
The yam’s tuber is shaped somewhat like a large carrot, but may be deeply lobed. Small “seed tubers” (hua uhi) grow off the main tuber, and are used for replanting. Yam varieties were named for their various qualities, such as uhi ke‘oke‘o (white yam), named for the white skin and flesh of its tuber. Uhi ‘ula‘ula (red yam), also called uhi lehua, was named after its pinkish flesh as well as the red wings that grow from its stem.
Uhi was just one variety of yams brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesian settlers, though it was the most preferred variety. Two other varieties of yams brought by the Polynesians were the lobe-leaved pi‘a (Dioscorea pentaphylla), and the cylindrical-stemmed hoi (Dioscorea bulbifera).
Hoi, known as the bitter or poisonous yam, was the least desirable variety for eating, requiring extensive preparation of the tuber (repeated boiling with lime added to the water) to make it palatable.
Neither pi‘a or hoi were cultivated, but both species grew wild and became naturalized in the Hawaiian Islands. Uhi, on the other hand, was extensively cultivated but did not grow wild. The plant now persists in some locations but is not considered a naturalized species.
In early post-contact times, yams became an important trade crop with foreigners on passing ships, because they kept longer than sweet potatoes, making them more useful for long sailing voyages.
For trading purposes, King Kamehameha I had yams planted in an area of Honolulu now bordered by Nu‘uanu, Alakea, Beretania, and King Streets.
[Photograph: Yam plant; close-up of a yam]
‘Ulu (Artocarpus altilis)
Common Name: Breadfruit
Family: Moraceae—Mulberry Family
‘Ulu was one of the most useful trees for ancient Hawaiians—they ate it, used it for medicine, and carved its wood. ‘Ulu is also associated with many legends.
‘Ulu may grow to heights of more than 60 feet (18 m) with a trunk diameter of more than 2 feet (61 cm). The glossy, large-lobed leaves of the breadfruit tree are from 1 to 3 feet (30 cm to 1 m) long.
The leathery, blunt-lobed leaves have slightly serrated margins. The young leaves are pleated like an accordion and then emerge from their sheaths and expand.
Male and female flowers occur separately on the same tree and are produced in sheaths that shed off as the flowers develop. The male flower consists of thousands of tiny flowers on a club-shaped spike about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) long.
The blossoms grow on a club-like spike and are yellowish to chartreuse in color, maturing to a tan and then dark brown color as they fall from the tree.
The female flower consists of a hundreds of tiny flowers growing in a bunch on a single stem and emerging from a central core, or extension of the flower cluster’s stem.
Fruitlets form from the flowers, merging into a composite fruit, or sorosis. The pineapple-like fruit (only slightly oblong) may exceed 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter and weigh more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg).
Ka ‘ulu loa‘a ‘ole i ka lou ‘ia
The breadfruit that even a pole cannot reach.
Said of a person of very high rank.
Breadfruit has a warty rind or skin. The fruit is produced from about May to September, turning from bright pea green to duller tannish-green as it ripens.
At maturity a milky sap begins to emerge from around the fruit stem though the fruit itself is still hard. The picked fruit becomes soft usually in less than 48 hours. The starchy flesh of the breadfruit becomes sweeter as the fruit ripens.
Origins of Breadfruit in the Hawaiian Islands
The breadfruit tree is in the same family as banyan and fig trees (Moraceae), and is native to Polynesia but not to the Hawaiian Islands. When ancient Polynesian voyagers brought the breadfruit tree to the Hawaiian Islands on their double-hulled voyaging canoes, they had to carefully transport cuttings of the actual plant. Humans had propagated the plant for so long that it no longer reproduced from seed.
Propagation was done by severing the lateral root of a tree on both sides of a root sucker, thus inducing it to form its own roots. Then the root sucker (weli) was dug up and planted elsewhere.
The trees were often planted in large groves on the southern coasts of the Hawaiian Islands, and less commonly in sheltered valleys and along windward coasts.
Traditional Uses of the Breadfruit Tree
Breadfruit is generally easy to grow, and in ancient Hawai‘i it had many uses. The fruit was picked using a long stick (lou) that had two sticks lashed obliquely near the end, which were used to pluck the fruit from the tree. Breadfruit may be baked or boiled, and was traditionally cooked in an imu (underground earthen oven).
With a taste and consistency similar to potatoes, and described by some as “mealy,” breadfruit was a staple food throughout much of ancient Polynesia. The seedless fruit of the Hawaiian variety of ‘ulu is very nutritious and starchy, supplying not only complex carbohydrates but also ample amounts of calcium and vitamin B.
A breadfruit pudding treat known as piele ‘ulu was made by mashing the flesh of the fruit with cream of niu (Cocos nucifera, coconut) and then wrapping the mixture in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti), and baking it in an imu (underground earthen oven). ‘Ulu was sometimes mashed into a poi, but since it fermented quickly it was not a preferred method of preparation.
Poi made from ‘ulu was also considered less nutritious and less tasty than poi made from kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro). Poi made from ‘ulu was also known to produce gas in the stomach.
Breadfruit was split open using a pōhaku kōhi (stone splitter). Other regions of Polynesia also had this tool, though it was usually made from wood instead of stone, as in the Hawaiian Islands.
The light wood of the breadfruit tree was carved into small (coastal) canoes, end pieces of larger canoes, surfboards (papa he‘e nalu), poi-pounding boards (papa ku‘i ‘ai), musical instruments (including large drums) and many other items.
‘Ulu’s inflorescence (flower cluster), leaves, and leaf sheaths (bracts enclosing young leaves) were used as a fine sandpaper to polish wooden bowls, kukui nuts (for lei), and other items.
The bark of the breadfruit tree was sometimes used to make kapa (tapa) barkcloth of a quality said to be preferred by the Tahitians, but not as fine a kapa as that produced by wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera, paper mulberry). The male flower of ‘ulu produced a yellow to brown dye used for decorating kapa.
When broken or cut, all parts of the breadfruit tree exude a sticky sap. This gummy sap was used by ancient Hawaiians as a glue for various purposes, including: caulk for the seams of canoes; an adhesive to hold layers of kapa together during the beating process; to hold together the ipu (Lagenaria siceraria, bottle gourds) of the double-ground drum (ipu pa‘i); to help attach shark teeth to shark-tooth clubs; and also as a paint that made kapa cloth appear shiny.
The breadfruit sap was also mixed with other plants to treat sores around the mouth, scratches, cracked skin and other skin conditions. Once solidified, the sap was used as a chewing gum.
An ancient Hawaiian saying stated: “Pakī kēpau, o‘o ka ‘ulu.” (“When the gum appears on the skin, the breadfruit is matured.”), which was explained to mean, “An observation. Also said when a young person begins to think seriously of gaining a livelihood—he is maturing.”[xxiii]
Breadfruit sap was smeared on long sticks in order to catch the nectar feeding birds sought for food and for their plumage, which was used to make various items of Hawaiian featherwork. This featherwork included ‘ahu ‘ula (royal capes and cloaks), kāhili (royal feather standards) and other symbols of chiefly rank.
Birds captured for feathers might be killed, or just some of the feathers taken and the bird released. King Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho ‘Iolani) declared that oil of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) be used to clean the sap from the birds’ feet so they wouldn’t stick to the next place they touched down, thus preserving the species so they could continue to be a source of feathers. (See Forest and Mountain Birds of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 7.)
In the game of ‘ulu maika, two sticks were placed some distance apart. Then a bowling disc made from an immature breadfruit (‘ulu) or from stone was rolled along the ground in an attempt to have it roll between the two sticks. Old maps show that many ‘ulu maika courses, or kahua, were found in Honolulu.
Medicinal Uses of ‘Ulu
The sap of ‘ulu was used to treat wounds and skin rashes as well as infected sores. First the sore was washed. Hot stones were used to heat spring water and the mashed bark of ‘ahakea (Bobea species) in an ipu (Lagenaria siceraria, bottle gourd). This mixture was strained to produce a dark liquid that was used to wash the sore. Then the treatment was applied.
One treatment applied to infected sores was prepared by mixing together ‘ulu sap with powdered ‘ahu‘awa (Cyperus javanicus). Added to this were unripe kernels of kukui (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut) that had been wrapped in leaves of kī (Cordyline fruticosa, ti), broiled over embers and then mashed.
Powdered lama (Diospyros species, ebony) was then added and thoroughly blended in, and the mixture was applied to the infected area twice a day. The mixture was sometimes absorbed with fibers of makaloa (Cyperus laevigatus) and then applied to the sore as a compress.
‘Ulu was also used as part of a preparation to treat mouth sores (see Kukui). Still today some people apply the sap of ‘ulu to chapped skin and sores.
[Photograph: Breadfruit tree]
Wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera)
Common Name: Paper Mulberry
Family: Moraceae—Mulberry Family
Wauke was brought to the Hawaiian Islands by the first Polynesian settlers as a source of fibers for bark to be made into kapa barkcloth, which was used to make clothing and many other items.
Kapa made from wauke was known to last longer than kapa made from māmaki (Pipturus species), another source of fiber for kapa barkcloth.
Wauke usually only reaches heights up to about 15 feet (4.5 m), but grows relatively fast and may exceed 50 feet (15 m). The leaves of wauke are rounded (almost heart-shaped), having one, two or three lobes.
Wauke leaves are about 5 inches (13 cm) wide and 8 inches (20 cm) long with soft, wooly hairs on the undersides but with a rough, sandpaper-like upper surface. The leaves also have a fairly long petiole (leaf stem), which may exceed 4 inches (10 cm).
Female and male wauke flowers occur on separate plants, with the female flowers forming a 1 inch (2.5 cm) head with wooly bracts and long stigmas (the parts of the pistil that receive the pollen).
Wauke also produces small orange fruits that are edible, thought not very tasty. Wauke has underground roots that sprout up new plants.
The wauke plant prefers moist soil and was often planted at the lower edges of forests and near streams. Young plantings of wauke were often sheltered by enclosures formed from dried leaves of mai‘a (Musa species, banana). Shoots from root crowns of previous crops were carefully dug up and replanted in mulched soil.
The leaves of the plant were pinched off leaving just the terminal bud usually in February or March. Lateral buds were pinched off to ensure the straight, unbranched stems that made better kapa.
A famous saying about the young Kamehameha by his adversary Keawemauhili was: “Eia ‘i‘o no, ke kolo mai nei ke a‘a o ka wauke.” (“Truly now, the root of the wauke creeps.”),[xxiv] implying that the leaf bud of the wauke (Kamehameha) should have been nipped off when the child was younger and before he became a powerful warrior who could not be stopped. (See The Early Battles of Pai‘ea Kamehameha, Chapter 17.)
In 18 to 24 months the wauke plants are harvested to be made into kapa (tapa) barkcloth. (See Kapa Barkcloth section for a description of this process). The leaves of wauke were sometimes used to wrap the deceased, while the bark of wauke was sometimes fashioned into sandals.Young shoots of wauke were used in ancient Hawai‘i as part of a preparation to treat ‘ea (thrush), which primarily affected children. Modern uses of wauke include preparing a tea from the fresh or dried leaves.
[i] p. 98, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 915.
[ii] p. 34, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 275.
[iii] p. 29, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 247.
[iv] p. 73, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 643.
[v] p. 285, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2596.
[vi] Wagner, Warren L., Herbst, Derral R., and Sohmer, S.H. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai‘i: Revised Edition, Volumes 1 and 2. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press; Bishop Museum Press, 1999.
[vii] p. 45, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 370.
[viii] p. 147, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 1353.
[ix] p. 271, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2477.
[x] p. 295, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2703.
[xi] p. 309, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2817.
[xii] p. 147, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 1347.
[xiii] p. 292, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2662.
[xiv] p. 255, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 2349.
[xv] p. 134, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 1239.
[xvi] p. 89, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 818.
[xvii] p. 317, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 2899.
[xviii] p. 261, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 2394.
[xix] p. 92, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 845.
[xx] Wagner, Warren L., Herbst, Derral R., and Sohmer, S.H. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai‘i: Revised Edition, Volumes 1 and 2. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press; Bishop Museum Press, 1999.
[xxi] p. 251, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 2304.
[xxii] p. 250, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 2291.
[xxiii] p. 284, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 2584.
[xxiv] p. 37, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, Proverb 302.