Ancient Hawaiians used native plants for many purposes — and the Hawaiian culture depends on them today. Native plants played a vital role in all aspects of life in Hawaiian culture. Hawaiians would use plants for food, symbolic decorations in ceremonies, and for medicinal purposes. Native plants require less water and are lower maintenance than non-indigenous plants. Hawaii's native plants foster an understanding, appreciation and respect for Hawaiian history and culture.
Native Hawaiian plants are integral to understanding the Hawaiian culture. ʻOhai which was very popular for lei making and enriching soil for other plants. Hau is a tree that was primarily used by Hawaiians for cordage and fire making. Hala is a plant with droopy-like features, and its long leaves were used to weave mats, hats, plates, blankets and bags. Koa is an iconic plant known for being used to make massive voyaging and fighting canoes. There are hundreds of native plants that are found only on our islands and to this day many people are fighting to preserve and protect them.
Learning about native Hawaiian plants and their uses endows the capacity to connect us to the Hawaiian culture. Many indigenous plants are on the verge of extinction but with greater education and understanding, we can continue to feel connected to our ancestors and their traditions, while also learning about the benefits of native Hawaiian plants.