Friday, September 18, 2009


False staghorn ferns

       My son, in his earlier pig hunting days, was relating a story to me and mentioned the uluis...needless to say, I paused in thought and then asked him what the uluis are.  I soon realized that he was referring to the uluhe fern, found in abundance on hillsides along the Hāmākua Coast.  The uluhe grows so thick that it gives the false impression that there is land right under it but in reality there might be a huge lua or pit and you don't even know it.  Well, a long lecture ensued in which I explained to my son how it is now his duty to teach his fellow pig hunter friends that the plant is really the uluhe, it should not have an "s" at the end (no Hawaiian word should!), and the end sound is en "eh" sound, rather than "ee" as in eek.
        Uluhe is a native forest fern and can grow 10 to 15 feet long and make a tangled mess.  It can be difficult to walk through as it covers ditches and hides cliffs well.  Amongst its good qualities, it prevents the growth of non-native plants in forest regions by shading out the sun to anything it overtakes.  Hawaiians used the uluhe as a laxative tea.

Pala uluhe - ripened in uluhe fern leaves
(A term of derision applied by the shore-dwellers of Ka'ū, Hawai'i, to the uplanders, who were poor farmers.  They ripened their bananas in pits lined and covered with uluhe fern leaves, instead of allowing the bananas to ripen in the field.)

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