Hau (Hibiscus tileaceus)

Hawaiian Name: Hau
Scientific Name: Hibiscus tiliaceus
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
Status: Polynesian-introduced
Where found: Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, Hawai‘i, O‘ahu & Kaua‘i
Water/Light: Dry to wet, with full sun exposure
Elevation range: 10 to 1,000 feet
Height: Up to 30 feet, with an up to 20 foot spread

‘Ōlelo Noeau [M. K. PUKUI]: Ka makani haʻihaʻi lau hau o Olowalu.
Translation: The hau-leaf tearing wind of Olowalu.
Meaning: A gusty wind.

Photo courtesy of Whit Germano
Photo: MNBG

Notes: Hau is an amazingly useful plant. Its fibers were made into cordage (rope), which was used in almost every facet of life in early Hawai‘i. The light wood was fashioned into spars for outrigger canoes and floats for fishnets. Hau, along with olomea, was also useful in igniting fire. Medicinally, the sap and flower buds were mixed with other plants to create remedies for chest congestion, dry throat, and labor pains. Hau is wind and salt tolerant.

From Work Done by Whit Germano to Catalog Native Hawaiian Plants

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A Few Native Hawaiian Plants from the MNBG Collection