Imiloa, Hilo Attractions | Canoe Plants
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Canoe Plants

These are plants that were brought to Hawai'i by Eastern Polynesians as early as 300 A.D.—because they arrived in canoes, these Polynesian-introduced plants are also referred to as "canoe plants"—brought to their new environment because of their usefulness and hardiness.

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

Ohi‘a ‘Ai
This fast-growing tree was considered sacred by the Hawaiian people. They used the wood for carving idols, as well as building temples and houses, and for joining two canoe hulls together to create a voyaging canoe. Used medicinally in a variety of ways, this tree also produces a sweet mountain apple that is always a tasty treat.

‘Imiloa’s landscape is home to several varieties of mai‘a, or banana plants, including: Mai‘a popo‘ulu no‘u; Mai‘a koa‘e, or apple bananas; Mai‘a huamoa, with rounded fruits that look like chicken eggs; and Mai‘a hapai, an interesting variety where the fruit actually grows inside the trunk of the tree.

Considered to be the most useful tree in Polynesia, every part of this plant could be used. It provided materials for housing, thatching, furniture, hats, fans, brooms, clothing, baskets, mats, cordage, musical instruments, containers, as well as food and the purest water in the world – the milky water of the coconut.

Traditionally considered to be the elder sibling to the Hawaiian people, the Kalo – (commonly called taro) and the poi made from its root—is believed to have the greatest life force of all foods. All parts of this hardy and nutritious plant can be eaten, provided it is cooked and prepared properly.

Hawaii's multi-purpose plant, Kī leaves have been used for food wrapping, to make raincoats, sandals, skirts, house thatching, fishnets, rope, lei, as well as for a variety of medicinal uses. It’s commonly called a Tī plant.

Every part of this tree can be used for something, but most significant is its use for light. Kukui nuts were strung on the midribs of niu to make candles, and because of this, these nuts are used in lei to symbolize enlightenment. Its common name is the candle nut tree – and is the state tree of Hawai'i.