Above is a picture of a hau tree and its bright yellow flowers.
Picture taken by Mr.Carbonel on Kauai.

Hau

Hau, also known as Hibiscus tiliaceus is related to the mallow family and is cousin to the hibiscous plant. It grows at a rapid rate on all of the Hawaiian Islands, but somehow gets controlled or tamed by humans.

The hau is sometimes confused with the tree called milo. However the milo flowers don't open fully like the bright yellow flowers of the hau tree. The leaves on the milo tree are more shinny and darker. The hau tree has more of rambling tangles of branches structure. The milo tree has a more tree like form.

Hau has many different uses. The bark from the tree is twisted and used for cordage. In old Hawai‘i, the Hawaiians would make slings using these cords; the slings would then propel items (like rocks) far distances. The people of Hawai‘i would also use the bark to make authentic hula skirts. The women in traditional hula dances used the skirts. The wood of the hau tree would be used for Fisherman to make different types of floats; they made D shaped floats or wedge shaped floats. Since the wood of the hau tree was light in weight the ancient Hawaiians made spears out of the wood. The wood and cords made use when it came to feet. The materials of the hau provided sandals for footwear.

The hau had also helped with some illnesses; such as dry throat. The person with dry throat would chew the bark of the hau tree. The moisture from the bark then helped the throat replenish with liquid. The bright yellow flowers on the tree were smashed and made into natural dyes.

The ‘ölelo Nö‘eau for Hau is “Ka ‘ili hau pä kai o ‘alio.” This saying means: The hau bark, wet by the sea sprays of ‘Alio. The sea sprays and sea air strengthen the Hau. It is a strong shore dweller.


Bibliography:

Kepler, Angela K. Trees of Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.

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

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