Mau‘u lā‘ili (Sisyrinchium acre)
Hawaiian name: Mau‘u lā‘ili (Hawai'i blue-eyed grass)
Botanical name: Sisyrinchium acre
Family: Iridaceae (Iris family)
Status: Endemic, At risk
Where found: Maui & Hawai‘i
Water/Light: Moist, with full to partial sunlight
Elevation range: 5,000 to 9,600 feet
Height: Up to 2.5 feet
Notes: In old Hawai‘i, navy blue to black dyes were made using the leaves and fruits of mau‘u lā‘ili. These dyes were used as ink for tattooing. Mau‘u lā‘ili tattoos were temporary and lasted about one year. Medicinally, the burnt ashes were used for treating kane hā‘uke‘uke (a fungal disease).
Hawai‘i’s endemic mau‘u lā‘ili is threatened with losing its purity; as a similar plant species from tropical America was accidentally introduced to Hawai‘i several years ago. This introduced species has hybridized with our native mau‘u lā‘ili.
*Photo by Ethan Romanchak