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Hula Plant Photo of the Day: ‘Uki

April 22, 2014

‘Uki. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Tuesday’s featured hula plant is the indigenous sedge ‘uki (Machaerina augustifolia), which grows throughout Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park in rainforests, mid-elevation woodlands, wet lava flows, and in cinder fields.  ‘Uki is one of the most noticeable, beautiful, and prolific native grasses in the park.

An important nā mea kanu o ka hula (hula plant), the flower clusters and shiny dark stalks of ‘uki are used by lei makers who craft them into lei wili (a lei made with the winding method) and lei haku (a woven lei of several materials) for lei po‘o – a lei worn around the head. You might notice ‘uki in the lei po‘o of the dancers competing in this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival.

This sedge has rigid, green, wedge-shaped leaves and grows in large clumps that can exceed four feet in length, and an inch wide. Feral pigs feed on the leaf bases and thus ‘uki can be hard to find in pig-infested areas.

If you want to learn more about the amazing uses and stories behind Hawaiian hula plants, check with the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park for the next Nā Mea Kanu O Ka Hula seminar with kumu hula Ab Kawainohoikala‘i Valencia of Hālau Hula Kalehuaki‘eki‘eika‘iu.

This week is also National Park Week, and starting Wednesday, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park offers many cultural demonstrations at the Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai. Click here for the schedule. All events are free, but park entrance fees apply.

‘Uki ‘uki

A particularly robust field of ‘uki grass . NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

‘Uki growing at Kīlauea

‘Uki makes a lovely addition to native plant communities. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

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