Canoe Plants of Hawai‘i

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Canoe Plants of Hawai‘i

The taro patches at NTBG’s newly renovated Hawaiian Life Canoe Plant Garden. Photo by Léo Azambuja

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.

  1. Ko (Sugar Cane; Saccharum officinarum): India; food, medicine, religion, etc.
  2. ‘Ohe (Bamboo; Schizostachym glaucifolium): Pacific Islands; knives, kapa stamps, etc.
  3. Niu (Coconut Palm; Cocos nucifera): South Pacific; food, cordage, etc.
  4. ‘Ape (No English name; Alocasia macrorrhiza) Tropical Asia and Oceania; food in times of famine, etc.
  5. Kalo (Taro; Colocasia antiquorum): Tropical Asia; main food plant: Hawaiian-Polynesian “Staff of Life”
  6. Mai‘a, or banana tree, at NTBG’s Canoe Garden. Photo by Léo Azambuja

    Ki (Ti Plant; Cordyline terminalis): Tropical Asia and Australia; food, medicine, etc.

  7. Pia (Polynesian Arrowroot; Tacca Leontopetaloides): Malay Archipelago; food, medicine, etc.
  8. Uhi (Yam; Dioscorea alata): Asia; food
  9. Hoi (Biner Yam; Dioscorea bulbifera): Tropical Asia; food during famine
  10. Pi‘a (Five-Leafed Yam; Dioscorea pentaphylla): Tropical Asia, Pacific; food during famine, etc.
  11. Mai‘a (Banana; Musa paradisiaca): Cultigen (obscure origin); food and food preparation
  12. ‘Olena (Tumeric; Curcuma domestica): Tropical Asia; dye, purification, etc.
  13. ‘Awapuhi (Wild Ginger; Zingiber Zerumbet): India; scenting, medicine, etc.
  14. ‘Awa (Kava; Piper methysticum): Pacific Islands; relaxing beverage, etc.
  15. ‘Ulu (Breadfruit; Artocarpus altilis): Pacific Islands, probably Guam; food, craft, etc.
  16. Wauke (Paper Mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera): East Asia; kapa-making
  17. Pa‘ihi (No English name; Nasturtium sarmentosum): Polynesia; food, medicine.
  18. A hala tree at NTBG’s Canoe Plant Garden. Photo by Léo Azambuja

    Auhuhu (Fish Poison Plant; Tephrosia purpurea): Tropical South Asia and Pacific; fish poison, etc.

  19. Kukui (Candlenut Tree; Aleurites moluccana): Asia, Pacitic Islands; lighting, food, craft, etc.
  20. Hau (Hibiscus; Hibiscus tiliaceus): Tropical Pacific and Old World; to make fire, canoes, medicine, fertilizer, etc.
  21. Milo (PortiaTree; Thespesia populnea): Coasts of Eastern Tropics; Seed; To make calabashes. etc.
  22. Kamani (Alexandrian Laurel; Calophyllum Inophyllum): Tropical Asia and Pacitic; calabashes, leis, etc.
  23. ‘Ohi‘a ‘Ai (Mountain Apple; Eugenia malaccensis): Tropical Asia, Oceania; food, craft, etc.
  24. A patch of ‘uala, or sweet potato, at NTBG’s Canoe Plant Garden. Photo by Léo Azambuja

    ‘Uala (Sweet Potato; Ipomoea batatas): Tropical America; food: vegetable from leaves, starch from tubers

  25. Kou (No English name; Cordia subcordata): Africa to Polynesia; best wood for calabashes
  26. Noni (Indian Mulberry; Morinda citrifolia): Asia, Australia and Pacific Islands; medicine, etc.
  27. 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

By | 2018-02-28T23:30:16+00:00 March 2nd, 2018|0 Comments

About the Author:

Léo Azambuja, editor of For Kaua‘i, has won multiple journalism awards in the state of Hawai‘i, including investigative and enterprise reporting, spot news and feature writing, photojournalism and online reporting.

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