Here’s a list of the 27 plants Polynesian sea voyagers brought to Hawai‘i. Each plant is listed by its Hawaiian name, followed by its English and scientific names, place of origin and its uses.
- Ko (Sugar Cane; Saccharum officinarum): India; food, medicine, religion, etc.
- ‘Ohe (Bamboo; Schizostachym glaucifolium): Pacific Islands; knives, kapa stamps, etc.
- Niu (Coconut Palm; Cocos nucifera): South Pacific; food, cordage, etc.
- ‘Ape (No English name; Alocasia macrorrhiza) Tropical Asia and Oceania; food in times of famine, etc.
- Kalo (Taro; Colocasia antiquorum): Tropical Asia; main food plant: Hawaiian-Polynesian “Staff of Life”
Ki (Ti Plant; Cordyline terminalis): Tropical Asia and Australia; food, medicine, etc.
- Pia (Polynesian Arrowroot; Tacca Leontopetaloides): Malay Archipelago; food, medicine, etc.
- Uhi (Yam; Dioscorea alata): Asia; food
- Hoi (Biner Yam; Dioscorea bulbifera): Tropical Asia; food during famine
- Pi‘a (Five-Leafed Yam; Dioscorea pentaphylla): Tropical Asia, Pacific; food during famine, etc.
- Mai‘a (Banana; Musa paradisiaca): Cultigen (obscure origin); food and food preparation
- ‘Olena (Tumeric; Curcuma domestica): Tropical Asia; dye, purification, etc.
- ‘Awapuhi (Wild Ginger; Zingiber Zerumbet): India; scenting, medicine, etc.
- ‘Awa (Kava; Piper methysticum): Pacific Islands; relaxing beverage, etc.
- ‘Ulu (Breadfruit; Artocarpus altilis): Pacific Islands, probably Guam; food, craft, etc.
- Wauke (Paper Mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera): East Asia; kapa-making
- Pa‘ihi (No English name; Nasturtium sarmentosum): Polynesia; food, medicine.
Auhuhu (Fish Poison Plant; Tephrosia purpurea): Tropical South Asia and Pacific; fish poison, etc.
- Kukui (Candlenut Tree; Aleurites moluccana): Asia, Pacitic Islands; lighting, food, craft, etc.
- Hau (Hibiscus; Hibiscus tiliaceus): Tropical Pacific and Old World; to make fire, canoes, medicine, fertilizer, etc.
- Milo (PortiaTree; Thespesia populnea): Coasts of Eastern Tropics; Seed; To make calabashes. etc.
- Kamani (Alexandrian Laurel; Calophyllum Inophyllum): Tropical Asia and Pacitic; calabashes, leis, etc.
- ‘Ohi‘a ‘Ai (Mountain Apple; Eugenia malaccensis): Tropical Asia, Oceania; food, craft, etc.
‘Uala (Sweet Potato; Ipomoea batatas): Tropical America; food: vegetable from leaves, starch from tubers
- Kou (No English name; Cordia subcordata): Africa to Polynesia; best wood for calabashes
- Noni (Indian Mulberry; Morinda citrifolia): Asia, Australia and Pacific Islands; medicine, etc.
- Ipu (Bottle Gourd; Lagenaria siceraria): Tropical Asia or Africa; containers for food storage, musical instruments, etc.
Source: Plants Introduced to Hawai‘i by the Ancestors of the Hawaiian People, by Dr. Harold St. John and Kuaika Jendrusch