Loulu Lelo


Left: Rat-free moku liʻiliʻi Huelo, embraced by lae Leinaopapio and Kūkaʻiwaʻa, just east of Kalaupapa. It’s capped by loulu lelo and many other rare endemics. Center: Blooming loulu lelo atop neighboring Mōkapu. Right: Loulu lelo forest on Huelo. – Photos: Ken Wood, National Tropical Botanical Garden

Photo: P. maideniana blooms
At Kalāhuipuaʻa, Island of Hawaiʻi, P. maideniana blooms. – Photo: Alan Cressler

Our pae ʻāina is home to 19 different species of loulu, a palm with fan-shaped fronds. [Note the lack of ʻokina or kahakō: loulu, rather than loʻulu]. All vary in general height: size, shape, and details of lau; fruit color and size; as well as fuzziness (or smoothness) of fronds.

Vast loulu (Pritchardia hillebrandii) forests grew near the shore, until ʻiole arrived. Hāwane, the edible fruits of loulu, are best eaten when immature. The fruits of loulu lelo, whose home is Molokaʻi, are yellowish to reddish-brown, and it is said their hāwane are the tastiest. ʻIole agree, and arenʻt picky. They devour hāwane of all species, making it impossible for the palm to regenerate.

Non-native, though often planted in landscapes, perhaps because of their relatively fast growth. Left: P. pacifica with dark green lau, from Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. Right: P. thurstonii from Fiji with pendant flower clusters. – Photos: David Eickhoff

Author’s note: Auē! I erred when I chose kou as the meakanu for April. Kou is a lāʻau kamaʻāina, native to these shores. It is not ʻāpaʻakuma (endemic – only found naturally in Hawaiʻi). My passion for lei and all things kou blinded me. E kala mai!