* 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: Hibiscus tiliaceus
Hawaiian Name Hau
The Hau plants normally looks like a twisting mess of curved branches and 5 pedaled flowers. These curved branches were often used in creating outriggers for canoes due to it’s shape and light weight. The plant was and still is very common and it’s bark was the primary plant used by the Hawaiians for cordage. However, the wood proved even more valuable to the Hawaiians as they would vigorously rub a smaller piece in a grove of a larger Hau branch to create fire. ( Photo by Forest and Starr)
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.
Scientific Name: Pittosporum hosmeri
Hawaiian Name Aleurites moluccana
This common plant has distinct light colored leaves that help this plant stand out in a forest. Its Hawaiian translation is ” light” because it’s seeds were extensively burned due to its high oil content. The spreading crushed nuts in small ponds helped increase visibility when spear fishing. The nut was roasted and eaten as a dish called inamona, although eaten raw it is poisonous. The oil from the nuts treated surfboards with create a protective coating similar to a stain.
Scientific Name: Acacia koa
This iconic plant is known for it’s sickle shaped leaves, but is often confused with Australian eucalypts which is very similar. To tell the difference one can break a leaf off and see if it smells like eucalyptus or grass. Hawaiians actually used the elepaio bird to check on the health of koa trees before they were used for massive voyaging and fighting canoes. If the bird found many insects than the tree was probably bad if it found few it was a good sign Click here for full article