Imiloa, Hilo Attractions | Indigenous Plants
  1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content

Indigenous Plants

Indigenous plants are plants that came to Hawaii via wind-currents or storms, birds, or ocean currents and remained unchanged by their new environment—these can often be found in other parts of Polynesia.

Some indigenous plants found in ‘Imiloa's landscape include:

In Hawaiian language, Kupu means to sprout. This fern was therefore symbolic of sprouting knowledge. It was, and continues to be used to decorate hula altars as well as serving as a hula adornment, representing the growing knowledge of the dancers.


Every portion of this plant provided materials for housing, food, medicine, ornaments, fishing, religious rites, furniture, baskets and other household items. Regarded as a Kupua, or nature spirit, this tree has a male and female form.

A very tough and versatile plant, the ‘Ulei wood can be carved into fishing spears and digging sticks, or bent into hunting bows or hoops for fish nets. The flowers and fruits are also used for lei making.

A member of the Lily family, the ‘Uki‘uki produces a fruit which can be used for making lei or dye. The leaves of this plant were braided for cordage and also used in house construction.

A shrub which can withstand dry, windswept environments, the ‘A‘ali‘i is celebrated for its strength in difficult circumstances. Its beautiful flowers were used for lei making and dye. The wood was used in making houses and weapons, and the leaves can be used medicinally.