By Bobby Camara Unuhi ‘ia e Puakea Nogelmeier
I ka malu o ka pulu e wehe aʻe ai ka pepeʻe i ka ʻōniʻo mālamalama o ka wao.
ʻO ka laulaha ʻana aʻe o ka hāpuʻu ʻōiwi ka mea e wewehi ai ke kahua o ka wao kele. Manaʻo ihola kekahi he wahine ka hāpuʻu pulu, me ka ʻaeʻae o kona oho ʻāʻula, a he kāne ka hāpuʻu ʻiʻi, no ke ʻano iʻi o kona pulu uliuli. Ma ka ʻike o ka poʻe ʻepekama, aiaʻelua mau ʻano, a ʻokoʻa iki kekahi i kekahi. Kākaʻikahi maoli ka Meu. ʻO kēia nō ka manawa e wehe aʻe ai ka pepeʻe, a e uluwehi koke ana nā pā hale a me nā wao nahele i nā lau kāmakamaka o ka hāpuʻu.
Maʻalahi ka hoʻohuikau ʻana i ka hāpuʻu ʻōiwi me nā ʻano o waho, ʻo ia ka hāpuʻu ʻAukekulalia a me ka pala haole, he mau ʻano hāpuʻu me nā huna ʻanoʻano e laha wale ana ma nā ʻaoʻao makahi o nā moku.
Hoʻohana ʻia ka hāpuʻu i pulu no nā palapū, no ka hoʻopiha ʻana i nā uluna, pale noho, pela moe a pēlā aku, no ka pia hoʻi a no ka lāʻau lapaʻau, eia naʻe ʻo ka mea koʻikoʻi loa paha o ka hāpuʻu, ʻo ia ke ʻano ʻōaʻa o kona kumu, kahi e kawowo wale ai ka ʻōhiʻa, ka hāhā a me nā kumu ʻōiwi nui hou aʻe, a ma muli o ia ʻano i kapa ʻia ai ka hāpuʻu ʻo “ka Makuahine o ka Wao Kele.”
A unique feature of hāpuʻu is the silky “hair” that covers the young fronds and the stalks of mature fronds. Some say the golden-colored hair of hāpu‘u pulu (above) is wahine, while the dark hair of hāpuʻu ʻiʻi (right) is kāne.
Protected by pulu, pepeʻe emerge into dappled forest light.
Our endemic tree ferns form the understory of the rainforest. Some believe hāpuʻu pulu, with its soft golden “hair” is wahine, while coarse, dark-haired hapuʻu ʻiʻi is kāne. Western science has them as different species with subtle differences. Meu is quite rare. Pepeʻe (tightly coiled fronds) are emerging now, and soon, fresh lime-green fronds will brighten yards and forests.
Hāpuʻu (Cibotium spp.) can be confused with invasive Australian and mule’s foot ferns, whose tiny spores spread and grow throughout Windward areas.
Though uses include food, wound dressing, upholstery stuffing, starch, and medicine, perhaps most importantly, the fibrous trunks are home to seedling ʻōhiʻa, hāhā, and other natives making hāpuʻu “Mother of the Rain Forest.”