They say all good things take time, and that is certainly the case for these slow-growing native treasures: the hapu'u, or Hawaiian tree ferns. The four Cibotium species endemic to Hawaii can grow anywhere from ten to thirty-five feet tall, and yet grow mere inches per year. A "tree fern" is the term given to a group of ferns whose fronds are lifted above the ground by means of a trunk-like mass of roots. They reproduce as do other ferns by spores, found on the underside of the frond, and so require semi-wet to wet habitats. The beautiful spirals, soon to unfurl into the large and lacy fronds, are a sight to behold.
Hapu'u pulu (Cibotium glaucum) is the most common of the four, its softening effect and tolerance of lower elevations making it a favorite in landscape design. It can reach heights of twenty feet or so, and the individual fronds get as large as nine feet. A bluish-green to gray coloring on the undersides of the fronds is characteristic, and the reason behind the species name, glaucum. Unfurled fronds and stalks are covered in a soft golden yellow to brown hair, or "fur" called pulu (in Taiwan, they have a related species that they refer to as "golden dog hair"). In early times, the soft pulu was used both as a dressing for wounds, and for embalming. In the mid 1800's to 1880s, it was greatly over-harvested and exported as pillow and mattress stuffing. Later still, it was harvested again, this time for its core, which was used to produce cooking and laundry starch. Fortunately, many are now aware that the tree ferns are an integral part of our forests and important to our watersheds. If we try, we're gonna get by with a little help from our fronds.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.