Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

Plants Introduced to Hawai'i by the Ancestors of the Hawaiian People

Dr. Harold St. John and Kuaika Jendrusch

Drawing Below: Ipu (Gourd Plant), drawn by Melanie Lessett

Plants are arranged in botanical order from least evolved to most evolved. Further research might indicate that additional species were brought. Each entry includes the Hawaiian name of the plant, the common English name (if there is one), and the scientific name, followed by the place of origin of the plant, the method of growing it, and its uses. For more information about and photos of native plants and their uses, see Nelda Quensell's "Ethnobotany of the Ahupua'a."

1. Ko (Sugar Cane; Saccharum officinarum): India; Upper-stalk cutting; Food, Medicine, Religion, etc.

2. 'Ohe (Bamboo; Schizostachym glaucifolium): Pacific Islands; Root; Knives, Kapa stamps, etc.

3. Niu (Coconut Palm; Cocos nucifera): South Pacific?; Sprouted coconut; Food, Cordage, etc.

4. 'Ape (---; Alocasia macrorrhiza): Tropical Asia and Oceania; Tuber; Food in times of famine, etc.

5. Kalo (Taro; Colocasia antiquorum): Tropical Asia; Tuber; Main food plant: Hawaiian-Polynesian "Staff of Life"

6. Ki (Ti Plant; Cordyline terminalis): Tropical Asia and Australia; Stem cuttings; Food, Medicine, etc.

7. Pia (Polynesian Arrowroot; Tacca Leontopetaloides): Malay Archipelago; Tuber; Food, Medicine, etc.

8. Uhi (Yam; Dioscorea alata): Asia; Tuber; FoodÑmost important kind of yam

9. Hoi (Biner Yam; Dioscorea bulbifera): Tropical Asia; Tuber; Food during famine

10. Pi'a (Five-Leafed Yam; Dioscorea pentaphylla): Tropical Asia, Pacific; Tuber; Food during famine. etc.

11. Mai'a (Banana; Musa paradisiaca): Cultigen (Obscure Origin); Suckers; Food and its preparation

12. 'Olena (Tumeric; Curcuma domestica): Tropical Asia; Root; Dye, Purification. etc.

13. 'Awapuhi (Wild Ginger; Zingiber Zerumbet): India; Root; Scenting, Medicine, etc.

14. 'Awa (Kava; Piper methysticum): Pacific Islands; Sprouting stem; Relaxing beverage, etc.

15. 'Ulu (Breadfruit; Artocarpus altilis): Pacific Islands, probably Guam; Root sprouts (dig up small plants growing from large tree. Leave 6 inches of root or more on each side); Food, Craft, etc.

16. Wauke (Paper Mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera): East Asia; Root sprouts (follow same procedure as above); To make kapa and clothing

17. Pa'ihi (---; Nasturtium sarmentosum): Polynesia; Transplant small plant; Food, Medicine.

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

19. Kukui (Candlenut Tree; Aleurites moluccana): Asia, Pacitic Islands; Seed or seedling transplant; Lighting, Food, Craft. etc.

20. Hau (Hibiscus; Hibiscus tiliaceus): Tropical Pacific and Old World; Stem cutting; To make fire, canoes, medicine, fertilizer, etc.

21. Milo (PortiaTree; Thespesiapopulnea): Coasts of Eastern Tropics; Seed; To make calabashes. etc.

22. Kamani (Alexandrian Laurel; Calophyllum Inophyllum): Tropical Asia and Pacitic; Seed; Calabashes, Leis, etc.

23. 'Ohi'a 'Ai (Mountain Apple; Eugenia malaccensis): Tropical Asia, Oceania; Seed or seedling transplant; Food, Craft. etc.

24. 'Uala (Sweet Potato; Ipomoea Batatas): Tropical America; Slips or stem cuttings; Food: vegetable from leaves, starch from tubers

25. Kou (---; Cordia subcordata): Africa to Polynesia; Seed; Best wood for calabashes

26. Noni (Indian Mulberry; Morinda citrifolia): Asia, Australia, and Pacific Islands; Root sprout, Seed; Medicine, etc.

27. Ipu (Bottle Gourd; Lagenaria siceraria): Tropical Asia or Atrica; Seed; Containers for food storage, musical instruments, etc.