Loi Kalo

Above is a picture of students of Kamehameha Schools helping to clean in the loi kalo.

Picture taken from Koa team.

Above is a picture of kalo planted, and seperated by banks of earth.

Picture taken at Punalu‘u loi on Oahu during dorm service project. 


Lo‘i kalo are ponds for wetland kalo that are enclosed by banks of earth. They are constructed near kahawai (streams) because they are irrigated with stream water. The Hawaiians used a system that allowed water from the stream to run through an ‘auwai (ditch) into the uppermost lo‘i kalo and flow through the openings in the terraces to each lower lo‘i kalo. The water is eventually discharged back into the stream. Many steps went into making a lo‘i kalo. Fishermen also take advantage of the lo‘i kalo and use them as fishponds.


The Flying Taro
One specific chief of Kona had a taro patch in which the plants grew tall and green. The two tallest and greenest taro plants were friends and they both grew in the upper corner of the lo‘i kalo. One day the two friends heard chopping and knew the imu was being prepared. One of the chief’s friendly servants came and warned to the two taro plants that another servant was going to come pull them soon. The two taro plants didn’t want to be made into poi so they hid close to the bank of the lo‘i next to a banana tree. One of the other servant’s came to pick the two big taro plants and couldn’t find them. He picked another two plants instead and then left. After many days, the chief found them and told a one of his servants that those two taro plants must be picked the next day. Once again, the two friends hid, this time among long cane leaves. More days passed and finally, the chief found them. The chief then called one of his servants to pull up the taro plants right then. Not wanting to be turned into poi and eaten, the two friends used their leaves as wings and flew to a common farmer’s patch. Again, the two taro plants remained unnoticed for a while. Then, the servant who had warned them before told to them that he had been sent by the chief to pull them up and they should fly away while he went to get his digging stick. The two friendly taro plants flew once again to a new lo‘i. This happened again and again until one day the chief himself came to pull them with his digging stick in hand. The two friendly taro plants took flight with the king right behind them. When they became tired, they went to rest in a friendly field but other taro plants warned them that they had to reach ka‘ū in order to be safe. So, taking the advice of the other plants, they flew and were barely ahead of the chief when they passed the border into the district of ka‘ū where the chief couldn’t touch them. The friendly taro plants rested in the taro patch of a nice chief and live to a good old age. This legend means that in the old days, men had the right to leave the land of a cruel chief to live unharmed in the district of a good one.


Life in Early Hawaii; The Ahupua‘a the 3rd edition. Kamehameha Schools Press. Honolulu, Hawaii, 1994

Krauss, Beatrice H. Plants in Hawaiian Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

Pukui, Mary Kawena. Tales of the Menehune. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1985.