Thursday, January 3, 2013


One of my favorite plants here in Hawaii is the Ti Plant (also called Ki or La'i).  I love both the red and green varieties, and they look striking planted together, especially when the sun shines through the leaves, highlighting all the striations.

The Ti Plant has historically had many uses in Hawaii, and throughout Polynesia:

- Its starchy rizomes, which are very sweet when the plant is mature, were eaten as food or as medicine.

- Its leaves were used to thatch the roofs of houses, and to wrap and store food.

- Leaves were also used to make items of clothing including skirts worn in dance performances. The Hawaiian hula skirt is a dense skirt with an opaque layer of at least 50 green leaves and the bottom (top of the leaves) shaved flat.

In ancient Hawaii the plant was thought to have great spiritual power; only kahuna (high priests) and ali'i (chiefs) were able to wear leaves around their necks during certain ritual activities.  

Ti leaves were also used to make lei, and to outline borders between properties it was also planted at the corners of the home to keep ghosts from entering the home or property. To this day some Hawaiians plant Ti near their houses to bring good luck.

The roots of the Ti plant were used as a glossy covering on surfboards in Hawaii in the early 1900s.

In Hawaii, Ti rhizomes are fermented and distilled to make okolehao, a liquor.

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