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Hula Plant Photo of the Day: Pūkiawe

April 24, 2014

Aloha, and Happy Thursday! To celebrate National Park Week and the 51st anniversary of the Merrie Monarch Festival, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park offers the fifth day of the Hula Plant Photo of the Day series. If you’re in the park today, be sure to check out the many wonderful cultural programs at Kīlauea Visitor Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., including a lei making demo. E komo mai and mahalo nui loa to all the wonderful and generous cultural practitioners who share their mana‘o (knowledge) with us this week, and throughout the year! Please remember: take only photographs and memories, and leave only footprints when you visit your national parks!



Pūkiawe growing along Kīlauea Caldera. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Today’s Hula Plant Photo of the Day is the indigenous shrub, pūkiawe (Stypheila tameiameiae). In ancient Hawaiian times, it was kapu (forbidden) for the shadow of an ali‘i, or royal person, to fall upon a lowly commoner. The punishment for the commoner? Death!  The only hope to avoid such a grave punishment was to have a kahuna, or priest, conduct a cleansing ceremony in which immersion in the smoke of burning pūkiawe would save the commoner.

Pūkiawe berries

The berries of the pūkiawe appear frosted in pink and white. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Today, pūkiawe is more commonly used for lei (and it does not survive fire well, like our earlier hula plants, ‘a‘ali‘i and māmane). Pūkiawe is an important Nā Mea Kanu o Ka Hula, or hula plant, and its small, thick, pointed leaves and tiny pinkish white berries are woven with other materials (lei haku) into either lei po‘o (head lei) or lei ‘ā‘ī, neck lei.

Pūkiawe is fairly common throughout Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and is considered to be one of the most widespread of Hawai‘i’s native plants, and is able to grow in many habitats.


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