Hawaiian Name: Ilima
Ilima is a common plant that thrives in sunny and hot conditions. This plant was prized for it’s beautiful flowers that were strung into delicate leis. This is the offical flower for Oahu. However, many people don’t know that this flower is actually edible and can be eaten in salads.
* Polynesian Introduced
Hawaiian Name Niu
This is probably both the most recognizable palm tree and Hawaiian plant in the world. The Hawaiians used this plants’ fronds extensively for weaving. The fruit can also be eaten, in green form as a jello, or brown form as a tough meat. Incredibly, the fruit is edible for up 5 months while on a tree. Unlike in many TV shows and movies, coconuts actually have a fibrous husk surrounding the fruit that must be removed before cracking.
Scientific Name: Thespesia populnea
Hawaiian Name: milo
This common tree can often be found in parks and provides solid shade. It was used by the Hawaiians to food utensils and containers because it left no bitter aftertaste. The bark also made a poor quality cordage and it’s fruit produced yellow and green dye. It’s not really clear why the Hawaiians brought this plant considering that it doesn’t appear to have any unique or essential uses.
Scientific Name: Pandanus tectorius
Hawaiian Name: Hala, Pu Hala
This plant is easily recognizable through its droopy leaves and the pineapple like appearance of it’s fruit. The mangrove like bottoms allows the hala to filter out small amounts of salt water and survive well on the coastline. The Hawaiians main use of this plant was it’s leaves. The leaves were used to weave, mats hats, plates, blankets, bags but most importantly they wove the sails of their voyaging canoes that carried them the thousands of miles to and from Hawaii.
Hawaiian name: Ulei, Eluehe
This is an excellent xeroscape plant and a common problem is overwatering. The wood is extremely flexible and springy and was used for spears, and creating hoops. A little known fact is that Hawaiians used bows and arrows to hunt birds and rats. This springy wood was a choice selection for both the Hawaiians’ bows and arrows. The fruit is edible although it’s grainy and not very tasty.
Hawaiian Name: Hinahina, pohinahina, kolokolo, kahakai
The edible leaves were used to treat stomach aches and head aches. This is a very common landscaping plant due to it’s pretty purple flowers and sage like fragrance. On beaches it is planted in the sand to prevent erosion. An interesting note is that this plant has become an invasive species on the eastern Coast of US.
Hawaiian name: Naupaka kahakai
Commonly known as the Beach Naupaka, this hardy plant can survive in harsh dry sunny conditions. The Naupaka’s white seeds can float for months in salt water. One study even suggested that the Beach Naupaka germinates best after 250 days in salt water. The Hawaiian legend about this unique 1/2 flower shape can be seen here. Modern day Snorkelers often crack the leaves open and rub the juice on their googles to prevent fogging