‘Uala (Ipomoea batatas)

Hawaiian name: ‘Uala
Botanical name: Ipomoea batatas
Family: Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family)
Status: Polynesian-introduced
Where found: All Hawaiian Islands
Water/Light: Moist, with full sun exposure
Elevation range: 0 to 5,000 feet
Height: Up to 10 feet

Notes: There once may have been more than 200 Hawaiian varieties of ‘uala. In old Hawai‘i, the young leaves were eaten as greens (called palula), and the sap was used in many medicinal treatments. A nursing mother wore an open lei of ‘uala vines to induce the flow of milk. The tuberous root (a great source of vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus) was an important food for early Hawaiians; and continues to be a local favorite today.

‘Ōlelo Noeau:

He ʻuala ka ʻai hoʻōla koke i ka wī
Translation: Sweet potato is the food that quickly ends the famine

‘Uala li‘ili‘i o Kalepolepo.
Translation: Small potatoes from Kalepolepo.
Meaning: Said of an unintelligent person.

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A Few Native Hawaiian Plants from the MNBG Collection